Give This: Salt: A World History and Spicy Herbed Salt Mix
Tough people on your holiday list: The nerdy uncle. The new-to-the-family sister-in-law. Anyone over the age of 65. Mark Kurlansky’s Salt is the rare non-fiction book that nearly anyone could find intriguing, making it perfect for the pesky hard-to-buy-fors. Yes, it’s “just” about salt. But Salt guarantees you’ll never see the humble table condiment the same way. When I met him a year ago, Kurlansky comported himself like a hybrid tweedy college professor and wizened fisherman. That’s the way he writes, too, filtering an encyclopedic, historic mind through the lens of a storyteller who’s always searching for a tale’s hook or quirk.
It serves him well as Salt traces the bizarre, compelling history of sodium from ancient times to the present day. Like gold, salt is a natural compound that, once mined, took on mythic properties. It inspired wars. It saved lives. It changed civilizations. Oh — and it tastes pretty damn good on fried chicken and French fries, too.
Whether you’re shopping for a cook, a history buff or just someone who loves a good read, put a little Salt in someone’s stocking this year. Then when they rave about how they couldn’t believe how much they loved a book about something so simple, ask them to borrow the copy.
After finishing Salt, no doubt your friends and family will have a new appreciation for NaCL. Show them just how delicious and versatile this seasoning can be with a jar of homemade spicy herbed salt mix. This blend of kosher salt, herbs and spices is not only beautiful—who doesn’t love tiny jars?—but can be used in place of salt on meats, corn on the cob, or just on buttered bread.
It’s also a fool-proof recipe. Chopping the fresh herbs is the toughest part, but goes much quicker if you have a food processor. Leave yourself two days for the herb-salt mixture to dry, and you’re done. Each small jar costs only about $5 in supplies (even if you’re buying organic herbs), so it’s a gift you can afford to give liberally. If you have your own herb garden, add what’s growing there to change the flavors a bit.
SPICY HERBED SALT MIX
- 3/4 cups rosemary leaves (one ounce)
- 1/2 cup thyme leaves (3/4 ounce)
- 1/2 cup sage leaves (3/4 ounce)
- 3 cloves garlic (large, sliced)
- 1/2 cup salt (kosher salt or coarse sea salt)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
Chop the thyme, sage, rosemary and garlic and blend, or chop them all together in a food processor. Mix with the salt and crushed red pepper. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and let dry for two days, stirring occasionally. Package in an airtight jar. The mixture will stay fresh for up to a year.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine. It yields enough to fill one small mason jar.