Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/11/2012 (1414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It seemed like a tall order. I wanted an edible gift that was fast and easy to make, inexpensive, wouldn't spoil or need to be refrigerated, and that kids could be involved in.
With so many caveats, the field is pretty narrow. I'm not a fan of baking mixes, such as muffins or pancakes. Too much measuring and printing of recipes so recipients know how to use them.
Spice rubs are a good choice. Trail mix is another. But I've done those before and this year I wanted something different, something a little less expected.
The solution I came up with: seasoned salts. The concept is simple. Blend salt with various seasonings, then package them nicely. The kids can even get in on decorating the jars.
There are just a few things to remember as you do this. Most important is that seasoned salts -- whether prepared or purchased -- are intended as finishing salts. That means they should be used to season finished dishes, not during cooking. Most of the nuanced flavour of a seasoned salt would be lost if used for cooking.
For gift purposes, I suggest planning for two kinds of salt -- powdered salt, which is intended for use on popcorn, and flaked salt, which is for sprinkling over finished savoury foods.
First, the powdered salt. The powdered part of this is key. Movie theatre popcorn tends to be perfectly salted because vendors use powdered salt; this adheres to the corn kernels far better than even fine grain salt does. This is why your homemade popcorn usually is unevenly salted, and why you end up with a sea of salt on the bottom of the bowl.
Making powdered salt is simple. Use inexpensive kosher salt, then run it through either a food processor or blender (you also can use a mortar and pestle for smaller batches) until it reaches the consistency of powdered sugar. Seasonings can be mixed in by hand after the salt is ground, or simply added to the processor or blender at the same time.
When selecting seasonings for popcorn salt, don't hesitate to get creative, even mixing sweet and savoury flavours. But always aim to use seasonings with a similar texture as the powdered salt (in other words, finely ground seasonings such as cinnamon, paprika, garlic powder, etc.).
For flake salts intended to use on savoury foods, you'll need to start with pricier flaked sea salt. With these salts, you simply mix them with the seasonings you want, then bottle them. Even easier than powdered salts.
You also have more choice when it comes to seasonings. No need to worry about matching the texture of the salt, which in this case tends to be large and coarse. Finely ground seasonings or more robust dried herbs, or a blend of the two, all work well.
I've outlined a few suggestions for each variety, but this is a creative effort, so just explore your spice cabinet. Be sure to label your salts and include hints on what to use them on.
-- The Associated Press
Popcorn salt combinations
Each makes enough for 4 to 6 gifts, depending on jar size
.5 kg (1 lb) kosher salt, 6 7.5 cm (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, 10 ml (2 tsp) cayenne pepper (grind everything together)
.5 kg (1 lb) kosher salt, 30 ml (2 tbsp) pumpkin pie spice blend (mix the spice blend into the salt after it is ground)
.5 kg (1 lb) kosher salt, 20 ml (4 tsp) garlic powder, 20 ml (4 tsp) smoked paprika (mix the spice blend into the salt after it is ground)
.5 kg (1 lb) kosher salt, 37 ml (21/2 tbsp) Sichuan pepper (grind everything together)
Savoury salt combinations
Each makes 1 to 2 gifts, depending on jar size
125 ml (1/2 c) flaked salt, 10 ml (2 tsp) dried oregano, 10 ml (2 tsp) dried basil, 2 ml (1/2 tsp) red pepper flakes
125 ml (1/2 c) flaked salt, 45 ml (11/2 tbsp) fennel seed, 10 ml (2 tsp) cumin seed, 10 ml (2 tsp) mustard powder
125 ml (1/2 c) flaked salt, 10 ml (2 tsp) curry powder