Reducing salt and low salt loaf recipe

Low salt loaf – recipe can be found at the end of this article

We know, don’t we that we ought to be reducing certain elements in our food, those that the modern world has invented, corrupted or pushing at us in unhealthy quantities. Whilst I’m firmly in the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ camp, lessening consumption of certain things like ultra processed foods, sugar and salt is good to consider. Here I’m going to look at ways to lower our intake of salt in homemade bread.

Salt is necessary for body function, but we’re all eating way over our required amount (ref: Gov.uk). While it may not be a worry for you now, you may need to adjust your salt intake as you get older or (hopefully not) develop certain health problems. By reducing salt now before these circumstances arise you will get more accustomed to a lower level of salt in advance and work to reduce your reliance on it.

Many of these ideas here for bread can be worked in equally well to flavouring other cooking, so you’re not automatically reaching for teaspoons full of salt to flavour your food.

Over the past year or so I’ve started reducing the amount of salt I add to my bread. There are a number of ways I’ve done this so as not to compromise on flavour and there are some radical alternatives too!

Salt in bread for flavour

Many people are under the impression that salt is necessary in bread baking. It’s not, but it does do more than just add taste. Certainly, its primary function is to add flavour and stop a loaf being bland, as the process of milling grain takes a lot of the natural flavour away. Or, as Elizabeth David rather cannily put it, salt is added because it “corrects insipidity”.

As a flavour enhancer, a certain amount of salt will draw out the taste of other ingredients. Because of this property salt is often added to sweet recipes, where you may think its appearance would be incongruous, such as in cakes and biscuits. Salt should be added into sweet recipes at a level where it only enhances and does not overwhelm or provide an actual salty note. This is the reason why you should adhere to the specified amount of salt in a sweet recipe and not be ‘liberal’ with the amount (as well as health implications).

Salt’s other properties

Water content

Salt has a minimal effect on the moisture content in the loaf as sodium dissolves readily in water and will even attract moisture direct from the air. This hygroscopic nature will take some of the water in bread dough away from being absorbed by the flour and yeast. Therefore, if you remove the salt completely, the dough will be wetter and you may have to tweak the recipe to reduce the water. [Frankly though, in reality, I’ve found this effect minimal so if the dough turns out to be a bit sticky just add a flourish of extra flour while kneading or shaping to compensate.]

Rise

Yeast does not like salt. Salt inhibits the yeast and will eventually actually kill it off if you just leave them together. Have you read a recipe that says put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other? That’s to keep the salt and yeast away from each other until the liquid is added, so protecting the yeast. If you don’t add salt then there will be a little more rise. Without salt, yeast can work to capacity (unless you’ve inhibited it in other ways – see my post on how yeast works).

Crust and texture

Salt dissolved in the dough contributes to a crusty crust as it helps tighten gluten structure. Also, salt will dehydrate in the oven and begin to return to its crystalline form. Want to test this crusty theory? Dilute salt in water and brush it over the top of your loaf before baking.

Preservation

Salt, I’m sure you know, is a preservative which humans have utilised for thousands of years. Your bread will last longer with salt than a no-salt bread.

How to reduce salt

Just. Don’t. Add. It.

There; simple huh? Well you could do that, such as with the famous pane Toscano (Tuscan bread) recipe. However, pane Toscano is often used to accompany ribboletto, the very rich and pretty salty soup – or some other food with a high salt content such as a highly seasoned salame. So, yes, you can entirely remove salt from a bread recipe but it really depends on how you’re going to consume it and what with. I suspect you would not notice a total lack of salt in pizza dough, bread rolls for BBQ meats or bacon butties for instance, as they incorporate all salty, highly flavourful ingredients in a meal. However, for the most part I’d recommend adding at least a little.

Reduce the salt amount and add pepper.

This is a great go-to method for everyday breads. Here, you get a little of the benefits of salt without eating too much in your bread. Using half pepper: half salt will give you a very flavourful bread. Make sure it’s freshly ground pepper to ensure a strong flavour (and not that grim, grey pre-ground stuff).

Reduce the amount (in part or entirely) and add seaweed flakes.

Seaweed has sodium in and is naturally salty but you also get a mix of flavours, added iodine and other vitamins. If you’re worried, I can tell you a loaf with seaweed in does not taste fishy! I love making bread with seaweed flakes and do it very regularly and my favourite is sea salad from the Cornish Seaweed Co. Add it into the dough instead of (some or all) the salt or sprinkle it on top, which looks beautiful. Seaweed goes particularly well in breads like grissini, focaccia, baguettes, rustic breads and marries well with ancients grains such as spelt and khorasan. My recipe given further below incorporates seaweed.

Add herbs or spices.

Go for a different bread taste and put in half the total amount of salt and add chopped fresh herbs. Use your favourite herbs or search out new ones for specific flavours. Everyone knows rosemary goes nicely in bread, but use parsley, thyme or basil for a mediterranean taste. Lovage and hyssop add a gently liquorice tang. Ramsons (wild garlic), chives or Good King Henry are great in savoury uses. Mint, lavender, thyme and nasturtium leaves are nice in sweetened brioche. Use spices as you would with a main recipe – add according to cuisine or pairing rules. Or break up the rules and just try your favourite spices.

Also, you might want to pre-prepare some salt infusions for this. See both my following recipe posts on salt mixes:

Fiery chilli salt mix recipe - Ink Sugar Spice

Add the seasoning in the liquid or other ingredients.

For instance, you can add miso or yeast extract to the water content. I often also add a spoonful of something ‘extra’ to my loaves, such as balsamic vinegar, malt extract, grape must, pomegranate or grape molasses, verjus or cider vinegar.

The other alternative is to use a low-salt alternative.

I cannot comment on this as I’ve not used it. It’s supposed to be about a third of the sodium, but I wonder what else is in it instead? I prefer to lower simple salt and add other flavourings – I know then what’s going into my bread.

Low salt loaf recipe

Low salt loaf - recipe by Ink Sugar Spice

Notes

This will also work in a bread machine. Add the seaweed flakes into your nut/seed dispenser and the yeast into the yeast dispenser, but everything else can go in the bowl. Choose a function that produces a medium sized ‘normal’ loaf.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Dough whisk or stand mixer is helpful, but you can mix by hand
  • Small ovenproof tin
  • Baking tray
  • Tea towels or other covers for the bread, while proofing
  • Scales, measuring spoons, measuring jug
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 3g fine salt
  • 1g freshly milled ground pepper
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of Sea Salad from the Cornish Seaweed Co – but use any edible dried seaweed flakes (whether bought or foraged)
  • 1 tablespoon of grape must. If you can’t find this – I buy mine in a Polish store – then use a rich Balsamic vinegar (I’d recommend Filippo Berio’s Premier Cru) or pomegranate molasses (such as from Odyssea), which are both easier to find
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 270ml water
  • 1 teaspoon of dried, fast acting yeast
  • A little extra oil and flour

Method

  • Mix together EVERYTHING in a large bowl, until it’s combined but a really rough mix. Use a Dutch whisk or a stand mixer if you have it as it’s a bit messy this mix
  • Leave to autolyse for 10 minutes
  • Knead (or turn on your stand mixer) for 10 minutes. It will eventually come together nicely without the need for extra flour (try not to add more, but use a little if you really think you can’t cope with it being that sticky!)
  • When the surface is smooth, oil a large bowl and place the dough in. Cover (tea towel, couch, shower cap or cling film) and leave to rise for 45-60 minutes
  • This loaf will almost double – probably about an extra 75% again of its original size
  • Tip out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knock back gently
  • Shape and place into your preferred banneton, bowl, bread tin or it can be plaited
  • Cover again and leave for about 25-30 minutes until it appears fluffed up. While it is doing this final proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240C non-fan and place a small tin at the bottom of the oven
  • When ready (and after the oven has reached temperature) lightly flour a baking tray. Invert the loaf from the banneton/bowl or place the plait or tin onto the baking tray
  • If you want and have inverted the loaf from a banneton, you can slash the top to aide the rise and make the loaf prettier (such as the wave pattern above)
  • Place in the oven and immediately put a cupful of water into the little tin you left in the bottom of the oven. This creates steam and helps the loaf rise
  • Time for 35 minutes, but after 10 minutes turn the oven down by 20 degrees (whether you have a fan or non-fan over).
  • After the 35 minutes the bread should be golden, risen and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom
  • Leave to cool over a wire rack

I’d love to know if you tried this loaf and found that you did not miss the normal level of salt. Please leave any comment below.

Chilli salt grissini

Grissini - inksugarspice

I have written a previous recipe for grissini (flavoured with olives, parmesan or seeds) which is a good, reliable recipe. It may seem odd to be writing a second grissini recipe but I believe it differs enough to warrant a write-up: these grissini are taper-thin and have an exceptional crunch to them. I’ve also rolled them in a chilli salt mix. They’re awesome on their own as a light snack but are wonderful with a melted cheese dip or something rich and tomato-y.

As I mentioned in the original grissini recipe, homemade breadsticks are simply miles ahead of the hideous pre-packed ones. I’ll repeat what I said in the original: once you’ve made your own grissini you can’t go back. The bonus is that they are one of the simplest yeasted bread recipes to make and are very impressive (especially when you know they’re pretty easy).

Notes

Makes about 30-40 breadsticks, dependent on the length you’ve rolled the dough out to.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • *Stand mixer with dough hook attachment (if not kneading by hand)
  • Pizza cutter or long sharp knife (non-serrated)
  • Two large baking trays, lined with parchment
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush
  • Clean linen tea towel or cling film

Ingredients

  • Tipo 00 or plain white flour – 150g
  • Strong white bread flour – 150g (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • Fast acting yeast – 1 level teaspoon/5g
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1 and 1/4 tablespoons (I used Filippo Berio’s)
  • Water, just tepid – 200 ml
  • Added ingredients:
    • An egg, whisked lightly for brushing
    • either 3 tablespoons of my fiery chilli salt mix
    • or
    • 3 tablespoons rock salt + 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread dough together (tipo 00 flour, bread flour, yeast, salt olive oil and water) into a scruffy mess
  2. Leave for 10 minutes to autolyse (this period helps the gluten develop initially before kneading)
  3. Tip out and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy (or mix in your stand mixer if you prefer not to knead by hand)
  4. Lightly oil the bowl you were using and pop the dough back in, and cover it with a tea towel or cling film until it has risen by about half as much again (it won’t ‘double in size’). This could be anything between 30 – 90 minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  5. When the dough is ready, lightly flour your working surface and tip out your dough onto it
  6. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out in as precise a rectangle as possible to about 0.5 cm / 1/4 inch thick (or as near as you can get it – don’t worry too much)
  7. Leave to rest covered with a tea towel for about 20 minutes
  8. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  9. When rested (and risen a little) use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut as many 0.75cm / 1/3 inch strips as you can from your dough rectangle

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  10. Scatter the chilli salt mix in a spread out pile on your working surface
  11. Using a pastry brush, spread the beaten egg lightly over the dough strips, turning them over to coat both sides
  12. Taking a strip of dough at a time, roll it gently in the salt and chilli, trying not to press too hard as you only want to roll the dough into a more rounded shape rather than lengthen it – the salt and chilli should stick on
  13. Carefully transfer the dough strip to your lined baking tray
  14. Repeat with all the dough strips, so they are all covered in the chilli and salt

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  15. Make sure there is a little space between all the dough strips on the baking trays and aim to line them up straight
  16. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  17. Bake for about 14-16 minutes until a nice golden colour
  18. Leave to cool in the trays
  19. They should be crisp with a nice ‘snap’ when fully cooled
Grissini - inksugarspice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Flavoured salts – part two

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[Updated]

In the first part of this series on flavoured salt mixes, I explained a little about the types of salts available, where they come from, how they’re harvested, what gives tinted salts their colours and how to select salts for different uses. So, if you missed that post I do encourage you to read it first before continuing here as it gives the full background and a much better understanding. You can access flavoured salt mixes part one here.

In this second part I’ve included a couple of absolute classics – Italian and French herbs. However, the Italian mix does include the optional addition of adding dried tomato paste. This kicks the mix up a couple of notches if you can be bothered to try drying tomato paste – I recommend you do try. It’s also a great way of elongating the shelf life of an opened can, tube or jar of tomato paste as it can just be sprinkled into foods while cooking.

On a slightly madder theme I’ve included a “recipe” that involved DRIED MARMITE! Yes, I actually spent one afternoon inventing the perfect dried Marmite. I wanted to include that ultimate umami taste in a salt mix, but of course I couldn’t include it in its normal gooey state. This is an AWESOME mix – I use on tons of things. You’d never know that it is entirely vegetarian! It’s particularly great to give an intense BBQ flavour to vegetarian foods and it brings out an incredible flavour on chicken and steak in particular. There is a BBQ mix on the part one post, which is entirely lovely, but this one knocks your socks off.

Almost equally mad, but not because of an individual ingredient, rather the whole mix is the English Summer Sweet mix. Sweet and salt is not a new flavour combination, but it’s still rather unusual in this form and takes some getting used to. This is a beautiful looking mix, full of pinks, blues and yellows. The trick is to use it for taste but not waste it’s good looks buried inside a dish. It is lovely in a short pastry tart, sprinkled over the top of a pavlova or meringue kisses before they go in the oven or in an ice cream. It also goes nicely sprinkled on the top of a pasta ripiena/pasta in brodo dish or on tapas or similar.

Do you have any salt mixes that you have created yourself, or is there any that you think you’d like to see? Perhaps you use sme pre-made ones, such as those from the Cornish Salt Co, but are itching to have a go at creating your own. Please let me know in the comments below 💙

Notes

  • Anything you add to a salt needs to be dry – very dry! Although that comes with a caveat – in my English Summer Sweet mix below I’ve found that both calendula petals and lavender flowers are perfectly fine putting into a salt mix fresh – the only other thing I’ve found so far that will work fresh is chopped up rosemary leaves. Everything else needs to be dried. Either start with pre-dried herbs or dry out your own ingredients in your oven or de-humidifier. I’ve given the timings and temps for ingredients I use where I can
  • Buy a high quality base salt for these, as cheaper salts do tend to have added extra ingredients (mostly to enable the salt to stay free flowing) and are more processed, thus taking out or negating any beneficial additional minerals
  • I’ve given ingredients and ratios for a typical flavoured salt, but if you’re aiming to use a lot less salt in your cooking then don’t add quite so much as I’ve given
  • Think what you’ll use the flavoured salt for – most typically these will be as a last garnish to a dish. For most of these it will be best to buy a rock or crystal salt, but if you’re using the flavouring within the early stages of a recipe there’s less need for an expensive crystal salt as it will dissolve
  • You can store these in anything that will keep moisture out, such as a click lock plastic tub but they do look really gorgeous in tiny Kilner jars. However, if you’re leaving a salt out on the dining table as a pinch pot, then it really doesn’t matter what you store it in (an old cleaned out jam jar for instance), just present it in a nice little bowl on your table

Equipment

For each ‘recipe’ you’ll need measuring spoons or a digital scale, a small bowl and a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Most will need a pestle and mortar and some other ‘recipes’ need an extra item which will be explained in each method.

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

Drying the herbs

Dried herbs are easy to get hold of and it’s likely that a keen cook will have most of these in their cupboard already. For the unusual herbs that you’ve grown yourself, it’s best to let herbs dry naturally in a sunny, dry spot (I hang mine in my little green house or my kitchen window). However, you can dry them out in your oven enough for these salt mixes. Place a single layer of the herbs you need on a baking tray: that is, don’t overlap them and it doesn’t matter if there are different types of herbs in one go. Bake on the lowest setting for an hour and test to see how dry the herbs are – herbs will dry out at different rates. Leave any in for another hour that have not dried yet. Crush in a pestle and mortar or a quick whizz in a blender (both before adding to the salt).

Tip: if any herbs are proving difficult to crush, add a little of the rock salt or salt crystals to the pestle and mortar. The salt acts as an additional surface to tear the herbs more effectively. Don’t tip all the salt in though, or you will pound this to a fine dust along with the herbs, and you want to keep the integrity of the salt (otherwise you may as well use fine table salt).

“Recipes” – all are vegetarian

salts2-6

Italian herbs

Ingredients are:

  • Rock salt or crystal sea salt – 2 tablespoons
  • oregano – 1 teaspoon
  • rosemary – 1 teaspoon
  • fennel or fennel seeds – 1/4 teaspoon
  • basil – 1 teaspoon
  • thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • lemon balm – 1/2 teaspoon
  • black pepper (freshly ground) – several turns of the grinder to taste
  • dried tomato puree – 1 teaspoon (optional but well worth the effort)

Method: Smooth two tablespoons of tomato puree as thinly as possible on a sheet of greaseproof paper and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven at 70C for 1 hour. If after this time there are still some ‘rubbery’ bits of tomato puree then put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and try again. The tomato puree with crisp up and go almost black. When fully baked, leave to cool and then crush or chop finely.

When the herbs and the tomato puree are dried, mix them with the salt and place in your container.

Some uses: in bread baking, for savoury pastry, pasta dishes, risotto and its also a nice addition to most meats and casserole-style meals.

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Umami / intense BBQ

Notes: There is a BBQ salt recipe on the part one post, but though that is good, this one is awesome, highly unusual and includes my unique mad-kitchen-scientist dried Marmite powder. It tastes very meaty and rich, but it’s entirely vegetarian (and as such I throw it copiously on any appropriate veggie meals I make).

Ingredients are:

  • smoked sea salt – 2 tablespoons
  • vegetable bouillon – 1 teaspoon
  • garlic granules – 1 teaspoon
  • onion granules – 1 teaspoon
  • smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon
  • soft brown sugar – 1 teaspoon
  • parsley – 1 teaspoon
  • dried Marmite – 1 teaspoon
  • smokey chipotle powder (optional) – 1 teaspoon

Method: spread two tablespoons of Marmite on to a sheet of baking paper and then place on a tray in the oven. Bake at 70ºC fan / 90ºC conventional for about 25 minutes. It will puff up and it’ll really smell (fine if you love Marmite!) – don’t panic: it’s fine! Leave to cool then crumble (with dry fingers) before mixing with the other herbs and spices and the stock cube in a pestle and mortar.

NB: With this salt mix it is better to have finer salt particles that match the other particles of the mix ingredients. I ground the smoked salt with a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have smoked salt, you may as well use normal table salt here, then you don’t have to grind or crush anyway.

Some uses: great as a dry rub, or with a little oil as a wet rub. Also lovely in a chilli, in jambalaya etc, for other Cajun dishes (especially those with prawns) or to brush over meats (mixed into oil) for the barbecue. Just on almost anything savoury and great for livening up vegetarian dishes… this is my total favourite salt mix.

Also – this one is fabulous when mixed in with cornmeal or polenta (ration about 10:1) and used as a crispy coating on chicken or for wedges!

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French herbs

Ingredients are:

  • Sea salt flakes/crystals or sel gris – 1 tablespoon
  • tarragon – 1/2 teaspoon
  • rosemary – 1 teaspoon
  • parsley – 1 teaspoon
  • thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • bay – 1/2 teaspoon
  • chives – 1 teaspoon

Method: Chop a dried bay leaf into tiny pieces (it won’t crush with a pestle and mortar well). The other dried herbs need crushing together (take the leaves off the woody stalks of the rosemary and thyme first) before adding to the salt. If you need to dry your herbs quickly see the note above.

Some uses: use in place of bouquet garni or Herbes de Provence. Also useful for fish, lamb and beef (especially steak) dishes.

English summer salt mix recipe e- Lynn Clark / Inksugarspice

English Summer Sweet

Notes: I’ve purposely kept the salt low in ratio as compared to the other ingredients, because of the uses of this mix. Dried borage flowers and rose petals are easily obtained from a Turkish or Middle-Eastern supermarket or online, if you don’t grow them yourself (they are also more tricky to dry successfully in an oven than other herbal ingredients – if you have a dehydrator this would not be an issue. If you don’t have much luck drying these yourself as they’re so tricky, do buy pre-dried).

Ingredients are:

  • Himalayan pink salt, fine sea salt flakes or a good quality table salt – 1 teaspoon
  • calendula petals (edible marigolds) (need not be dried first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
  • dried rose petals – 1 teaspoon
  • dried borage flowers – 1 teaspoon
  • lemon zest (need not be dried fully first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
  • lavender flowers (need not be dried first – see method) – 1/2 teaspoon

Method: the calendula petals and lavender flowers do not need to be dried in an oven, as they are dried by the salt in the pot. The lemon zest can be dried in a 50C oven for 30 minutes at least or just leave it overnight between two sheets of kitchen paper which you have weighed down with a book or other weight. The rose petals and borage flowers need to be oven dried as per the lemon zest (or bought pre-dried) as they are more delicate and are prone to either making the other ingredients wet or looking very dishevelled if you don’t dry them first. Mix all lightly together so as not to crush the delicate ingredients before potting up.

NB:  This is another salt where it is better to have finer salt particles (the hit of crunching into a large piece of salt would be too overpowering in a sweet mix). I actually have a salt grinder with Himalayan salt in, so I just ground the right amount. Also you can use a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, use normal free-running table salt here.

Some uses: sparingly in things like ice cream or meringue. Sprinkle a little on fruit or desserts or use in sweet pastry baking, such as tart cases or shortbreads. Gives a twist to savoury dishes nd particularly good with pasta and fish or sprinkled over salads or tapas for a pretty finish.


You are welcome to use these recipes for your home cooking (that’s why I write these things up online so others can try!)


However, please do not recreate them as a recipe anywhere or pass them off as your own (specially relevant for commercial use eg chefs, cooks, Home Eds, food stylists, restaurants etc). If you show them anywhere on social media you must credit me @inksugarspice.


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Flavoured salts – part one

salts2-2[updated]

It’s all the food fashion at the moment it seems to have a pot of two of flavoured sea salt, with salt companies clambering over each other to bring them out. Take a look past the hype and you’ll see that salt mixes are exceptionally useful in the kitchen and can even be used to bring down your salt intake a little.

I’ve been concocting my own for a while now, mostly fuelled by the vast number of different herbs I grow in my garden. (I have to explain that I’ve not got a big garden: most herbs are in single, small pots as they don’t need much space and I’ve done this cheaply by saving seeds, taking cuttings, swapping herbs with friends and buying the occasional herb plant or seed packet. Herbs are for my money the easiest group of plants to grow and you need next to no space to grow four or five of your favourites).

Salt mixes can be costly when bought pre-made but it’s exceptionally easy and much cheaper to make your own. You can use the herbs in your garden, herbs bought from the greengrocer or the dried herbs and spices you already have in your kitchen.

I have a second post planned with some of my more ‘mad’ mixes, seasonal flavours and a couple of absolute classic combinations but you can easily go on to experiment with your own.

Notes

  • Anything you add to a salt needs to be dry – very dry! Either start with pre-dried herbs or dry out your own ingredients in your oven or de-humidifier. I’ve given the timings and temps for ingredients I use where I can
  • Use your own fresh herbs and dry them (timings in the ‘recipes’) or substitute for pre-dried herbs: it doesn’t matter
  • Buy a high quality base salt for these, as cheaper salts do tend to have added extra ingredients (mostly to enable the salt to stay free flowing) and are more processed, thus taking out or negating any beneficial additional minerals
  • I’ve given ingredients and ratios for a typical flavoured salt, but if you’re aiming to use a lot less salt in your cooking then don’t add quite so much as I’ve given
  • Think what you’ll use the flavoured salt for – most typically these will be as a last garnish to a dish. For most of these it will be best to buy a rock or crystal salt, but if you’re using the flavouring within the early stages of a recipe there’s less need for an expensive crystal salt as it will dissolve
  • You can store these in anything that will keep moisture out, such as a click lock plastic tub but they do look really gorgeous in tiny Kilner jars. However, if you’re leaving a salt out on the dining table as a pinch pot, then it really doesn’t matter what you store it in (an old cleaned out jam jar for instance), just present it in a nice little bowl on your table
  • These are the ratios I’ve come to like in my salt mixes, but if you really love a particular ingredient I’ve included (or hate it) adjust to your preference

Salt – a sprinkling

There are 20-30 types of salt in the world, but it’s difficult (or impossible) to get hold of most of these, depending where you live some will be easier than others. Also, realistically, you can live with using just table salt, however if you have a couple of extra types of salt it will provide a few more options. If you want to make your own flavoured salts or use them for different purposes then four to five salts are a good arsenal to have in your kitchen.

All salt is sodium chloride (NaCl). Salt in anything other than small quantities is known to be bad for health. But use it sensibly and it can be included in a healthy person’s diet (anyone with high blood pressure or similar conditions will have been given advice on salt intake by their GP). Food can be entirely bland and disagreeable without it and it serves as a natural preserving agent. By making flavoured salts myself I believe I use a little less overall in my food as I am effectively making a dry stock – adding flavour that’s not all just salt. I don’t think it’s much of a saving, but even a little helps.

Cutting down on salt?

All salts are salty… you’ll be thinking I’m mad writing that here but there’s a preconception that some are much better for us than others as they’re more about the minerals than the salt. Don’t be fooled. Some do have added minerals but that doesn’t change the salt itself: the minerals are ‘extra’ not ‘instead of’. If you want to watch your salt intake further, then do look out for lo salt. It’s a medium-grain table salt but can easily be swapped into all the recipes below if you’re concerned (though of course you’ll lose the texture and some flavourings like the smoked salt). I believe it’s about 1/3 the sodium level of normal salts as it replaces some sodium chloride with potassium chloride and anti-caking agent. Personally I just try to use a little less salt and use other flavourings instead (hence the birth of all my salt mixes).

There are basically only two types of salt – sea and rock. All the myriad variants of salt from the stuff in the plastic salt cellar in the chip shop to Fleur-de-sel to Hawaiian red salt come from either of these two sources. I have added table salt as it’s such a difference kettle of fish because of its addition of other ingredients and its use.

Sea salt

Sea salt comes in various crystalline forms (from small flakes to fascinating pyramidal structures), but it’s all salt harvested from sea water. However all sea salt is not created equally (though in my opinion I don’t think there’s much taste or use differentiation, but I have not yet tried Fleur-de-sel). Most sea salts will be refined to get rid of impurities and ‘nasties’ from the sea water, with companies usually now harvesting direct from the sea and processing in a shore-line plant or an underground plant (see this from the US Salt Assoc.).

See this clip from the Cornish Sea Salt Company on YouTube:

However, the eye-wateringly expensive Fleur-de-sel is a little different. Sea water is driven off into a basin-shaped area and allowed to evaporate. The fluffy crust (the ‘flower of salt’) that forms is scraped off by hand and packaged without refinement. This only produces a small amount at each salt gather (so hand gathering + small amounts = the high price). Fleur-de-sel is not just collected in France, but in other countries too such as Portugal and Southern Russia. Due to its natural state it’s unlikely to be pure white.

After the Fleur-de-sel is taken away, the rest of the water is allowed to evaporate and larger sea salt crystals are formed, this is gros sel, which again is not refined but is more easily harvested and in larger quantities so is about 1/10th the price of Fleur-de-sel. Salt of this kind which has a lot of additional minerals to make it darker in colour is sel gris – grey salt.

Other sea salts have minerals or colours added, such as the red Hawaiian Alaea salt, which is sea salt plus red volcanic (edible) iron oxide-rich clay.

I have (or have used) sea salts from Maldon, the Cornish Sea Salt Company, Halen Môn from Anglesey (I like to keep it British, as you can tell, as far as possible), and interlopers: Falk (Swedish) and the cheaper Tidman’s (which actually is now owned by Maldon but is less expensive for pretty much the same thing – go figure?!) and the budget brand Saxa.

Rock salt

Rock salt is mined halite, a form of sodium chloride – it’s a very different salt to sea salt. Salt deposits that have naturally occurred (mostly but not always from ancient dried up seabeds and salt water lakes) are mined like other aggregates and broken up into usable granules or ground, then purified and recrystallised when necessary. Depending on where the salt is found geographically it will have taken on some minerals and ‘impurities’ from the surrounding area, although the term impurities could actually mean beneficial minerals. Rock salt is refined to remove harmful impurities to make it fit for human consumption, although there are some very pure sources. See this short article from erocksalt.com explaining the extraction and purification: http://www.erocksalt.com/where-rock-salt-come-from/

This is a You Tube video by Colin Morris on the Winsford Salt Mine (Cheshire, North West England):

Rock salt includes unusual salts with differing colours such as pink Himalayan salt, tinted pink from the microorganisms that once lived in the sea water in what is now known as the Punjab (note: not actually the Himalayas! That’s just a marketing ploy, apparently) it also includes chromium, iron, zinc, lead, and copper before refinement.

Kala Namek (often labelled as Indian Black Salt) is the ‘proper’ Himalayan salt as it actually does come from that region in India and Nepal. It is a dark purple to a black colour, and goes purplish-pink when ground. It’s supposed to be a bit smelly as the colour is due to sulfates. I have not tried this salt, but I’ve read that it is used not only in cooking but also Ayurvedic medicine and is considered more akin to a medicinal herb than a spice or condiment. (I’m including kala namek to show the range of colours and properties that can be seen in different rock salt due to the chemicals found in the salt, not because I have used it).

Coloured and single flavour salts

Black sea salt crystals - Ink Sugar Spice

Black (carbon) salt is sea salt which is processed with additional carbon (all edible). It’s no different to other salts but is really for show. I have some myself and I love using it though you do get black fingers after sprinkling it (it does just rinse off). My salt is from Falk, a Swedish company, and I use it on deserts to give a bit of an impact and to top finished foods, like the top of breads, quiches, in salads etc. It’s wasted ‘in’ foods – it just dissolves and the colour dissipates. Relatively expensive, but I only use a minimal amount and of course salt doesn’t degrade (when kept dry) so you can have a pot that lasts for years. It’s basically following the trend for carbonised, black foods but it is a little fun – I like to sprinkle it on as the final flourish on a bright dish for some contrast: it’s basically all about the visual impact rather than any taste difference.

Smoked Sea Salt - Ink Sugar Spice

Smoked salts: it doesn’t sound like smoking salt should be a ‘thing’ but it’s dry smoked so it honestly does work. My smoked salt is from Maldon, the Essex-based company, and it’s got a distinctive, lovely smell and flavour which does carry over in to the food. Great for the smokier salt mixes and I always use this in chilli con carne etc and when barbecuing. It’s lasts a while, though I do go through it more quickly than the black salt (it has more applications) and is a little most costly than normal sea salt flakes, but I think it’s worth keeping on hand.

Table salt

A free-running salt with very small granules. Usually exceptionally cheap and made from sea salt. Table salt comes with an anti-caking agent and sometimes even iodine added to ensure it stays free running, so check the pack and buy a reputable brand – even with a brand name it shouldn’t cost much more. Useful for adding to bread dough (as it’s so fine), adding to simmering water for pasta and veg etc (because of its cheapness) – and for putting round the garden to discourage slugs!! I keep a large packet of Italian table salt, from Amato, as I mostly use this in my bread making and baking, and I’m sure you know I do a lot of that…

Equipment

For each ‘recipe’ you’ll need measuring spoons or a digital scale, a small bowl and a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Most will need a pestle and mortar and some other ‘recipes’ need an extra item which will be explained in each method.

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

Drying fresh herbs method

My method is to bake the herbs on a layer of greaseproof paper in a 50°C oven (or your lowest setting) for 40 minutes, then crush.

“Recipes” – all are vegetarian

Mermaid salt mix recipe on Ink Sugar Spice

Mermaid mix

Ingredients are:

  • Himalayan pink salt or Cornish sea salt – 1 tablespoon
  • Seaweed mix‡ – 1 tablespoon
  • Black or multi colour pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Dried borage flowers – 1 teaspoon (don’t pack tightly and pick the bluest ones)
  • Dried rose petals – 1 teaspoon (don’t pack tightly)

‡ either a pre-packed seaweed mix or use a mix of dulse, nori, wakame, kelp and/or sea spaghetti (whatever you can find).
I have the Sea Salad mix from the Cornish Seaweed company

Method: the dried seaweed does need to be in small particles to match the salt. If you’ve bought each seaweed separately or the packet mix is large pieces, break up the seaweed in a pestle and mortar, or put it in a plastic food bag and roll a rolling pin over it to break it up. The dried borage and rose petals may need chopping up slightly.

Some uses: in Chinese and Japanese inspired recipes, fish dishes, shellfish dishes, fish pie, great on homemade crisps.

Fiery chilli salt mix recipe - Ink Sugar Spice

Fiery chilli (hot, hot, hot!!)

Ingredients are:

  • Himalayan (keeps the pink/red colour of the mix) or normal white rock salt – 1 tablespoon
  • dried birds eye chilli – 2 chillies
  • paprika – ¼ teaspoon
  • chilli flakes – ½ teaspoon
  • chilli powder – ¼ teaspoon
  • cayenne – ¼ teaspoon
  • black pepper (freshly ground) – ¼ teaspoon
  • onion granules – ¼ teaspoon
  • garlic granules – ¼ teaspoon

Method: pound the dried birds eye chillies in a pestle and mortar before combining with the rest of the ingredients.

Some uses: curries, chilli con carne and other Mexican dishes, paella, mixed with some oil it makes a great rub for barbecue or roast meats and is excellent on wedges or chips.

Mushroom salt mix on Ink Sugar Spice

Mushroom

Ingredients are:

  • Rock salt – 1 tablespoon
  • dried porcini mushrooms – 4g
  • onion granules – 1 teaspoon

Method: the dried porcini mushrooms need to be either whizzed in a blender or crushed in a pestle and mortar. If using a pestle and mortar, put the rock salt in with the mushrooms as it gives extra grip and makes it easier. Do not rehydrate them (keep them dry). Once the porcini are crushed into a powder/small pieces you can mix them in with the salt and the garlic and onion granules.

Some uses: for risotto, for added oomph to vegetarian dishes or meat casseroles, good with chicken and pork.

Asian style salt mix on Ink Sugar Spice

Asian-style mix

Ingredients are:

  • Black sea salt – 1 dessert spoon (10ml)
  • black onion seeds – ½ teaspoon
  • seaweed mix – 1 ½ teaspoons
  • Szechuan peppercorns – ¼ teaspoon
  • Chinese five spice – ¼ teaspoon

Method: crush the Szechuan peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, including the seaweed at the end if it needs crushing smaller. Mix altogether.

Some uses: Thai, Chinese and Japanese style recipes where you want a little kick (Szechuan peppercorns are quite something!!) or add to a dark soy sauce as an Asian-style marinade for tofu, fish, chicken or pork.

Lynn's Season All herb and salt mix recipe on Ink Sugar Spice

Lynn’s Season-all

Ingredients are:

  • Fine sea salt flakes – 1 tablespoon
  • garlic granules – 1 teaspoon
  • onion granules – 1 teaspoon
  • fresh ground black pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • vegetable bouillon powder – 1 teaspoon (or use a low sodium a vegetable stock cube)
  • dried orange zest  – ½ teaspoon
  • dried parsley (see note above about drying fresh herbs – ½ teaspoon

Method: Zest an orange (or more) and follow the drying method for herbs above. Combine with the rest of the ingredients once the zest is cooled.

Some uses: basically this is a pumped-up vegetable stock cube! Use wherever you would normally use a stock cube but don’t want to add two. Also this is great when mixed with flour or breadcrumbs as a batter or breadcrumb coating for vegetables and meats.

herbsAndSpices