Salting away the salt

Hey there friend!

You say it’s eleventy thousand degrees in the shade?  You say that if you go outside there’s a distinct possibility that you’ll burst into flame?  You say you’re stuck in the house with children that are so bored they’ve taken to reading up on taxidermy and are starting to look at you funny?

Or maybe everything’s peachy and you’d like a kitchen adventure?

Well Bunkie, have I got something for each of you.

This week we’re going to make salt.

When I go to the mall, I always visit Williams Sonoma.  They’ve got cooking tools on the left and tableware on the right.  Displayed in the center, around the cash/wrap is food..

But the best stuff is around the corner, near the gadget wall.

This is where the mark-downs are.

And you never know what’ll be back there.  One time I got a normally very expensive package of Carnaroli risotto rice for less than $4.00.

One afternoon I made a beeline for the mark downs and spied something that was as unfamiliar as it was intriguing.

It was a tiny glass jar full of deep, shiny, chestnut-brown crystals labeled Stumptown Coffee Flake Salt made by the Jacobsen Salt Company.

The original price, for 1.5 ounces, was $11.99.

Ridiculous, right?  But…it was half price.  And half price certainly makes everything much more attractive.  I’m pretty sure that’s how come Jefferson was so eager to make that Louisiana Purchase.

So I took it home.

It was good on steaks, but I discovered that when it’s rubbed on the very humble baked potato it basically turns it into crack.  Ever since I’ve been eating them at least three times a month.

Coffee Roasted Baked Potato

coffee spud

2 large Russet potatoes

2 teaspoons coffee salt (grind it a little finer in mortar and pestle)

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon bacon grease

Preheat oven to 350.  Make a shallow rimmed tray out of foil.  Wash spuds and poke with a fork 4 or 5 times.

Spread a thin coat of fat all over both potatoes, then rub with coffee salt and pepper, making sure the entire surface has a nice crust on it.

Place in foil tray and bake for 45 minutes, then flip over and bake 45 more.  Remove from oven and dress to taste.

Serves 2.

After quite a few spuds, I needed more of this stuff.  I picked up another jar, but discovered it was half price because it was being discontinued, and there would be no more.

So, I decided to make some salt.  The first time out, I made coffee salt.  But the next time I made a batch of Earl Gray salt for The Kid’s birthday.  My thinking is that almost any liquid could be used.  I made both coffee and tea triple strong to intensify the salt’s flavor.

Coffee Salt

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Set up a jar.  Tie cotton string around a pencil or thin dowel that is long enough to reach the bottom of a tall jar. 

4 cups water

2 cups kosher salt

7 ½ tablespoons instant coffee

Put water and salt in non-reactive pan.  Add coffee and heat until it lightly simmers.  Take off heat, let cool for 10 or 15 minutes and pour into jar.

Rest pencil horizontally on the rim of the jar.  The string will float for possibly a couple days, but when it gets fully saturated, it will sink.

Put jar in a quiet corner of the kitchen and forget about it for a week or so.  The crystals will grow on the string.  When the string looks fat with brown crystals and the water has evaporated about ¼ of way down, remove string from water and brush crystals into a glass baking dish.  Strain the brine and add to dish.  Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, then rake the salt with a fork to break up.  Bake and rake in 15 minute increments until dry.  Break up salt one last time, store in a glass jar, to use as desired.

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You know, I’m thinking this would be amazing lightly sprinkled on chocolate.   And roast beef sandwiches or sautéed mushrooms, or barbecue sauce or…

Thanks for your time.

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