As an alternative to drying, chef and author Magnus Nilsson of rural Sweden’s acclaimed restaurant, Fävaken Magasinet, makes herb salts to get him through the winter, when he has no fresh herbs or produce. He keeps some of his herb salts in the freezer but allows others to age, fading to almost brown by springtime. I made my herb salts too late even in my California season to try most of his favorites. I just took a look at what I still had in my garden and ended up with a lemon verbena-mint-thyme mix, which is great on chicken and fish, and chive, which is great on everything. Lovage and lemon balm are on my calendar for next year.
(This recipe was adapted from Fävaken by Magnus Nilsson, Phaidon, October 2012)
Make sure the herbs are dry—Chef Nilsson says to pick them on a sunny day.
Pulse the herbs in a food processor, until they are finely chopped, taking care not to let them heat up. Add the salt, and pulse a few more times.
Pass the mixture through a coarse sieve to remove any woody stems, or do what I’ve done with the lemon verbena mix, and store it in a spice mill so you can grind as needed. Even picking on a sunny day, my chive salt was pretty wet and didn’t have any woody stems, so I didn’t sieve and just put it in the freezer.
Store in the freezer or at room temperature, depending on whether you want fresh, newly picked flavors or slowly changing tastes through the winter.
I’m a marine biologist who can get a little overly obsessive about cooking projects. If it involves obscure research, strange and unusual ingredients, and more work than you can imagine—I’m ready to party.