Today truly feels like spring here in my little corner of the Wild Wood. The surrounding hills are green, every tree has leaf buds if it isn't in full leaf, and the birds are singing for all they are worth. Even the breeze seems gentler.
My thoughts are turning back to the garden and finding the right herbs, vegetables, and fruit to grow this year. One thing that I am looking forward to is making more infused sugar and perhaps even salt from herbs that I grow. It is quite a simple thing that can make a huge difference in the end product. I simply take a reasonable handful of herb, for example a bunch of about four or five stems of rosemary about five or six inches long from my spring trimming, put it in a jar with enough sugar to cover, and shake occasionally to distribute. As the rosemary dries the leaves will fall off of the stems and I can sift the sugar or not as the recipe dictates. I currently have rosemary, lavender, and vanilla sugar; but am thinking about adding a citrusy herb to the collection - perhaps lemon balm or lemon verbena, or even lemon thyme.
The process for infusing salt is the same, simply chuck in whatever herb or blend you want to flavor with and cover with salt. As the sugar or salt is used up simply add more to the container. If you find the flavor fading add more herbs. It really is quite a simple way to add to your own signature to the dishes you prepare.
Either the sugar or salt you infuse can be substituted in any recipe for the unflavored kind. I especially enjoy making shortbread or pound cake with an herbal sugar - often not even sifted - which really creates a suprising note of difference to something incredibly simple. My favorites so far are shortbread with lavender sugar and a little lemon zest and a dense pound cake style loaf with rosemary sugar. Little packages of sugar with a packet of tea makes a delightful personal gift, as would a jar of either sugar for a baker or salt for someone who loves to cook savory foods. Include directions for replenishing as it is used up and you have given a useful gift that will continue to give for many years.