The (undeniable) best time of the year has arrived – the holidays! It’s time for stomachs to be filled with warm, comforting food, with loved ones close by. Here’s a short and sweet list of winter cooking spices to incorporate into this years holiday favorites:
Try it in Thanksgiving specialties, like in cranberry sauce (to give it that extra ‘wow’ factor), or even in seasoning for various meats, such as lamb chops.
Experiment with nutmeg by grating some of it into your homemade Gingerbread loaf and topping the loaf off with a sweet and creamy orange glaze.
This is a unique spice which can truly be used all year round! In addition to a classic gingersnap cookie recipe, try incorporating ginger into a carrot soup to construct a new element.
Cloves are perfect additions in curries, soups and rice dishes, as well as in meat marinade. Try adding ground cloves to your coffee cake for a unique twist!
Infusing warm milk with a dash of ground cardamom and a drizzle of honey on top makes the perfect drink for a cold, rainy winter night.
Take a look at the dishes you commonly prepare, and see where you can add a twist by including any of these seasonal spices!
There are plenty of sayings and idioms that have solidified their spot in our language, but people often find that the phrase “worth one’s salt” or “worth your weight in salt” has an elusive meaning.
This saying actually dates back to ancient times when many roads and trade routes were developed by a market known as the salt trade. The salt trade was just what it sounds, a period in time before salt deposits were found to be readily available around the world, so merchants would travel far and wide selling salt to villages.
However, this salt wasn’t being carried such long distances just for because it was a tasty addition to just about every dish. Back then, salt was mainly used as a means for preservation, and it actually represented great power and value.
Without salt, armies wouldn’t be able to carry their rations for such long distances and explorers wouldn’t have been able to sail to new lands.
Salt really enabled society to expand. And, during those times when extraction methods were particularly tricky, salt was considered even more valuable. So, to say that someone is “worth one’s salt,” it’s a statement that acknowledges that they are competent, deserving, and–to put it simply–worthwhile. If a boss were to say it to an employee, it would be meant as a compliment, confirming that the employee is a valuable part of the team and they deserve their salary.
In fact, the phrase itself is thought to be rooted in Ancient Rome where soldiers were sometimes paid with salt or given an allowance to purchase salt. Similarly, if a person uses the phrase “worth its weight in salt,” to describe an object, they are expressing that they think the item is worth the price they paid or that it otherwise holds immense value to them.
Our new Spices 101 series will dive into everything you’ve ever wanted to know about spices, herbs and spice blends — starting with salt. Do you have a spice you’d like to know more about? Let us know what you’d like to see featured next in the comments.
Let’s talk about salt, baby.
When it comes to properly seasoning your food, there’s no ingredient more important than salt.
“One of the biggest secrets to restaurant cooking is salt and butter,” our founder Zach added. “But never salted butter.”
Generally, salt falls into two major categories: rock and sea salt. In the kitchen, you’re typically reaching for sea salts, which include everything from kosher salt to fancier versions we’ll detail below.
Once we make it to the kitchen, salts get further divided, starting with ingredient salt (incorporated into the cooking process) and finishing salt (added at the end while plating a dish). Because they don’t need to dissolve fully, finishing salts are larger and sometimes come in interesting colors to add a dimension beyond flavor to a dish.
But, that’s only the beginning. From there, you can go down a deep rabbit hole of more than 50 types. Today, we’re going to hit the major players.
Hello, Morton’s iodized salt. This is your typical, from-the-grocery store NaCl. You’ll find this in most salt shakers, and it typically has lots of chemical additives to keep it from clumping. (something we always avoid.)
This coarser variety is used by more serious home and professional chefs, with a saltier flavor that lasts longer than others on the tongue. It also tops soft pretzels and your margarita glass.
Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water instead of sedimentary deposits. Depending on the commercialized process, most sea salts contain more minerals and flavors than your typical table salt varieties. From there, sea salt can branch further down into even more types, depending on the sea from which it came — from Hawaiin to French.
Gaining popularity in recent years, artisan salts come from various processes — from Himalayan pink salt (a rock salt from Pakistan) to Fleur de sel (which comes from scraping grey salt pools).
The Spice Guy Favorites
Here are a few of our favorite salts that we sell to restaurants and online. All of our retail blends only contain Pacific Ocean sea salt from Washington. Zach’s rule is — “If my 7-year-old niece can’t pronounce it, we don’t include it in our blends.”
We don’t like to pick favorites, but this is probably it. While many salts have anti-caking agents and sometimes even sugar added, this salt (often called “Redmond Real Salt”) is perfect for replacing your kosher or table varieties. This comes from the salt flats in Utah, and as it moves along the ground it picks up more than 60 minerals along the way. Not only does it look beautiful with a brick-speckled hue, it also has nutritious properties you can’t find in other salts. Add it to literally anything.
To add a spicy zing to your everyday salt, try our Sriracha Salt. We turn Sriracha into a paste and mix it into the salt for a rich, spicy flavor. It’s great for adding spice in extra dishes, marinades or even over popcorn. Some restaurants in Denver (like Lola and Work & Class) use it to rim their margarita glasses.
This Alderwood smoked salt adds a deep, dark flavor to anything it meets. Great for apartment dwellers, smoke salt allows you to gain that natural smoke taste without the hassle of a smoker. This would also kill it on a margarita glass. Coming online soon!
Cypress Sea Salt
Our favorite finishing salt, Cypress salt is known for its pyramid shape. It comes from the Mediterranean Sea. Top your steak or fish fillets with a few flakes of this magical mineral. Coming online soon!
… and that’s just the beginning! Taste the difference in our salts found in our other blends like seasoning salt and French fry seasoning.
We get the question often: “Should I buy whole spices vs. ground spices? At the end of the day, what’s the real difference?”
The answer is that WHOLE SPICES are always more fresh, fragrant, and flavorful. Likely the greatest thing about whole spices is that they keep their flavor for about 2x longer than the same product ground up and we all know – fresher is better. Keep spices in their whole form until you’re ready to cook, at which point use a coffee or spice grinder to open up those fresh flavors. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive – a $20 grinder will do. I have this Coffee Grinder from Amazon and it works wonders. (not an affiliate link)
Try roasting whole spices for something completely new in your cooking
The other magical part of whole spices is the ability to toast and roast. Cooking spices in a pan over medium-low heat will bring out a completely different flavor profile. Notice the attributes of seeds and peppercorns coming alive when they’re hit with heat.
For starters, turn your stove on low-medium heat and move the spice around while gradually turning up the heat. Try black peppercorns, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds as you learn this simple process. Notice a more intense flavor, aroma, and overall cooking experience with these ingredients. Ethnic foods benefit greatly from roasting and toasting. Do yourself a favor – roast up some cumin and make the world’s best Guacamole. The possibilities are endless!
Don’t want whole spices? No problem.
You asked and we answered. It’s ok if the extra step of whole spices is too much for you in your culinary journey. Ground spices are convenient and still pack a punch in cooking great meals. Do remember that food can only be as fresh as the ingredients used. Make the most of a good thing and try a whole spice in place of ground spices today.