Infusing salt and sugar with herbs and spices takes two pantry staples to the next level. Here's a few of our favorite infusions.
Image Credit: Romulo Yanes
Citrus: Mix the zest of any citrus -- lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, you name it -- with sugar or salt and spread on a baking sheet. Though it can be used immediately, it's best to let the mix air dry on a baking sheet for at least eight hours or overnight to infuse the flavors and get rid of any moisture from the zest that could make the mixture go rancid. Pack it in an airtight container for storing and gifting. Citrus salt can be sprinkled on fish or chicken while citrus sugar is nice used to sweeten iced tea.
Fresh Herbs: Similar to citrus salts and sugars, this infusion also benefits from drying out before packing. Add finely chopped herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage to sugar or salt and air dry it on a baking sheet for at least eight hours. Sugar infused with herbs is nice sprinkled on fresh fruit or used in place of regular sugar in simple cakes such as olive oil cake or vanilla pound cake. Herb salt tastes great on roasted potatoes or root vegetables, or on any meat, from steak to chicken to fish.
Vanilla: Cut up one or two vanilla beans and bury them in an airtight container of sea salt or sugar. The flavors will marry the longer the jar sits so give it at least two to four weeks before using it. Vanilla sugar is great stirred into coffee or used in place of plain sugar in baking. Vanilla salt is a unique finishing salt for salted chocolate chip cookies or chocolate shortbread.
Sriracha: It may sound odd but this is a great infusion for salt, trust us. Mix a small amount of Sriracha sauce with salt and let air dry before packaging. It's best used for rimming margarita glasses and sprinkling on steak, wings, eggs, french fries, and popcorn. Or try sprinkling a little on your favorite deep chocolate brownies for something really unique.
Lavender: Layer fresh or dried lavendar bulbs with sugar or salt in an airtight container and let sit for at least a day but preferably longer to achieve a strong infusion. Lavender sugar is nice stirred into hot tea, used to make biscuits or scones, and sprinkled on fresh berries. Lavender salt is not only a unique rub for lamb, chicken, and fish but also wonderful sprinkled on anything chocolate, from truffles to pudding.
It's the time of year to get crafty, and crafting something edible always wins. We love making edible gifts to pack up and pass out to all our family and friends. Classic standbys like granola, truffles, and chocolate bark are easy, sure, but it's easy to fall into an edible gift rut. If you've always gotten rave reviews for your annual bag of spiced nuts then why go astray?
Here's why: infused salts and sugars. They're the gift you should make instead this year -- equal parts simple and impressive. Infusing salt and sugar with various herbs and spices takes two pantry staples to the next level. Depending on what you infuse them with you can use them for anything from roasted potatoes to cookies. Pack them up in cute little jars and gift away. But be sure to save some for yourself too, to sprinkle onto or stir into your own favorite dishes -- your kitchen will thank you.
Check out the slideshow above to discover our favorite salt and sugar infusions.