Salted Herbs

MAIA’S SALTED HERBS A blend of vegetables and herbs, chopped up raw and preserved in salt, used as a seasoning in … just about anything!

Salting food is an ancient method of preservation, dating to the days (centuries!) before refrigeration. One reads accounts of people salting fish, beef, pork, and various vegetables. And then there are salted herbs. Variations of salted herbs exist in many countries, and the composition of the product seems to depend upon culture, culinary preferences, and the plants growing in the garden.

salted herbs

I had not heard of salted herbs until I lived in Quebec for a year in the late seventies. One day I bought a jar of “les herbes salees” in a grocery store, and tried them in one dish after the other. To my delight, I found they gave everything a rich flavour boost. When I moved back to Ontario, I couldn’t find them anywhere, and soon forgot about them.

Life changed, and among the upheavals in mine was the recession of the early 90’s. With three young boys and no income, we moved into a rural setting. My husband found work here and there, and I was offered a chance to earn money by doing a bit of market gardening. It didn’t take me long to discover a sideline of preserves to be equally profitable. One day a French Canadian customer was buying a bushel of broad beans for his favourite “soupe aux feves.” I asked what else he put into it, and he stressed the absolute necessity of including “les herbes salees.” Salted herbs! My ears perked up. My mind starting working. I wondered if I would be able to make my own version. After all, I had my own garden, overflowing with bountiful produce ….

Armed with a list of the ingredients in “les herbes salees,” a lifetime of hands-on experience with flavourful, wholesome cooking, and a garden full of lush vegetables and herbs, I started experimenting. Two years later, having refined the recipe, adjusting ingredients and proportions, I finally brought Maia’s Salted Herbs into being. Parsley, celeriac, onions, leeks, carrots, chives, and savoury, chopped up raw (except for savoury), and preserved in coarse salt. A wonderful way of capturing the flavours of a garden for seasoning an unlimited array of nourishing dishes.

Salted herb production begins in spring, with the seeding of carrots, and planting of leeks and onions in soil free of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Once danger of frost is past, rows of celeriac, parsley, and savoury are added. The chives, being perennial, already have their own permanent place. In the months that follow, the garden is tended. Watered when necessary. Hoed. By mid-summer, the savoury, at its peak, is harvested, hung to dry, and then rendered into powder.

As summer nears its end, preparations are made for processing the vegetables and herbs. Jars and labels and salts are ordered. Tables and washing facilities are set up. A team of workers is arranged. And off we go. Harvesting, washing, coarse chopping, fine chopping, and salting must happen in rapid succession to ensure the optimum freshness of the product. By the second day, with a quantity ready, jarring and labelling begins. The process is intense, yet has an undercurrent of camaraderie and joy of accomplishment. More like a work bee than a job.

A few years ago, in response to public demand, I introduced a variation, using sea salts. My current special edition is made with traditionally harvested sea salts from Central America. They have been tested, and are as close to pollution-free as is possible. A special edition made with hand-extracted, stone ground Himalayan salts has also been introduced.

Salted herbs easily last two to three years, though I suggest using them – like any other seasonings — within one year since fresh ones are available annually. The general rule for use is to replace the amount of salt in a recipe with twice that amount of salted herbs, then adjusting to taste. Some customers who are on a salt-restricted diet, simply substitute an equal amount of salted herbs for any salt called for in a recipe. Salted herbs are not recommended for anyone on a salt-free diet.

Over the years people have shared interesting stories associated with salted herbs. The herbs seem to call up a lot of nostalgia, often involving mothers or grandmothers who used to make them. Some of these mothers and grandmothers, in fact, still make their own salted herbs and then supply their entire extended family with this staple. Several people have also related experiences in which salted herbs served as a healing poultice on a sprained ankle or a twisted wrist. I would not recommend this as a substitute for medical attention; it could, however, be something to remember in a desperate situation.

Meanwhile the salted herbs’ nutritional, flavour-enhancing properties can be used on their own to enrich stews, gravies, omelettes, marinades, and fried potatoes. They make a great rub on meat and fish. They can be combined with basil, oregano, garlic, and cayenne to add pizzazz to a spaghetti sauce. They blend with chili seasonings, or with dill and lemon. The possibilities are endless. A long-time customer once said to me, “You know when your soup lacks that little something?” She held up a jar of salted herbs. “That’s the little something!”

Comments from satisfied customers:

“I am almost through my first jar of your salted herbs and I cannot do without them. I love this product!”

“They make everything taste better.”

“My kids won’t eat my gravy since I ran out.”

“Please send me more. My lunchtime soup doesn’t taste the same without it.”

“I have many food allergies and intolerances and often suffer eating very bland food. That was until I found your product. I love it and put it in everything.”

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2017 prices for Maia’s Salted Herbs:

We are simplifying things this year, offering only 490 ml and 229 ml jars.*

Our special editions will only be available with Himalayan salts, and, later in the season, with Sacred Salts and garlic chives.

(*Our jars of choice are North American glass with high recycled content.)

REGULAR SALTED HERBS WITH PICKLING SALT (ADDITIVE-FREE)

229 ml: 8.50

490 ml: 15.00/ 2 for 25

SPECIAL EDITION WITH HIMALAYAN SALTS AND SACRED SALTS

229 ml: 11.50

490 ml: 22.00

The salts used in our special edition salted herbs are

traditionally harvested, unprocessed, unrefined, additive-free, and fair trade.

Down-To-Earth Cooking with Maia’s Salted Herbs

a 48-page cookbook of recipes using salted herbs

$4.00 (.19 gst included)

Extra charge on shipping

For further information or ordering,

contact Maia:

613 398 6703

maiasforestfriends@sympatico.ca

www.forestfriends.ca

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