Herbes Salées (Salt Herb Preserve) – Recipe and How-To
We’re going to start our roundup of weekend preserving recipes (there are 19 and counting – so the rest of the month will be an abundance of how-to’s and recipes) with Herbes Salées (Salted Herbs). This was one of the most requested items between Facebook and the comments of yesterday’s posts asking what you wanted to learn about. It’s also one of the easiest to explain and as we recover from a long weekend in the kitchen, I’m not shy on looking for the easy way out today.
Herbes Salées are made around the world. My influence is from the Acadians in Nova Scotia.
My Mother is from the most beautiful Cape Breton island. It’s an amazing place that’s full of culture, nature, music, dance and tradition. Preserving herbs with salt is a very common method and is a part of many traditional dishes in the East Coast. You use them in the place of salt and herbs - omlettes, stuffed fish, soups, stews, sauces and beans. They replace salt and herbs – as they are a combination of both things.
I should also introduce the controversy of this post: like so many examples of regional cuisine, there is a lot of debate on what makes this recipe ‘authentic’:
- One group of people insist there are certain ingredients which make herbes salees - this often includes chervil, parsley, onions, carrots and celery leaves (all in equal proportion)
- Others allow to freelance – use what you have to put it together.
I subscribe to school #2. The tradition of a lot of Acadian food in my family includes a history which included poverty, class segregation and difficult living conditions. This article from early 2010 explains a bit of perspective on the Acadians and an epiphany between understanding decaying language and our food system).
Even in my Grandmother’s lifetime she describes:
Everyone had to have a garden when I grew up. It wasn’t a matter of choice, trend, luxury or hobby. We needed it to survive.
So a traditional Herbes Salees within my tribe consisted of whatever herbs you had – generally at the end of the harvest (I’ve made a jar now and will likely repeat right at end of growing season here).
The generally accepted instructions for making Herbes Salees:
- Chop your clean and dry herbs fine (avoid using a food processor which can cause excessive bruising)
- Place a layer of salt in a clean, sterile jar.
- Place a layer of herbs.
- Repeat with a layer of salt.
- Repeat with herbs until jar is full.
- Close jar and put in fridge for 14 days. I like to shake it around gently each day.
- After 12-14 days, drain any excess liquid.
- Store herbs in fridge. Will keep for weeks (and, in all likelihood much, much longer).
I alter the approach slightly. I mix my herbs in a giant bowl, adding salt as I go. I essentially do the same thing others do in a jar (i.e. layering) but then give the entire mix a really good toss to increase the amount of salt contact with each individual piece of herb before placing in a jar. I place a final layer of salt on top of the final mixture.
When you jar the mixture, it will likely take far less room than when you started – I use a 2L (4 pints) mason jar that should become less than a liter when completed.
These are the herbs after 4-5 days: