Salt Preserving for the February Mastery Challenge

February 2, 2017

It’s the first of February and that means it’s time to take on the second project in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. This month is all about salt preserving. For the purposes of this challenge, we’re going to focus on dry brining or curing. Think salt preserved citrus, salt preserved herbs (herbes salees), gravlax, cured egg yolks, sauerkraut, infused salts, and kimchi. We’re going to stay away from meat and wet-brined ferments.

Remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose a project or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

The Recipes

You don’t have to choose one of these recipes, but there’s some good stuff here. Feel free to use one or use them as a jumping off point for your own research and exploration.

Salt preserved lemons – This is an easy starting point. I make at least one batch of these every year. They add a tangy, funky bite to soups and stews. I often heap a bunch of them in the blender and puree them smooth. I dollop that puree into hummus, vinaigrettes, and other creamy spreads.

Salt preserved key limes – Some readers argued whether the fruit I used were in this project were actually key limes, but that’s what the bag said. They’re zippy and bright and worth the making.

Citrus salt – Another really simple one. Zest a bunch of lemons, limes, grapefruits, or oranges and combine them with chunky salt. Spread it out on plate or parchment-lined cookie sheet and let it air dry. Then sprinkle it over chicken, fish, dips, and roasted vegetables.

Herb salt – A variation on the citrus salt above, this expansive, wide-ranging recipe is flexible and adaptable.

Herbes salees – There’s a version of this recipe in my second book, but I learned everything I know about salt preserved herbs from Joel and Dana at Well Preserved. And so if their post was a good starting place for me, it’s a good starting place for you!

Gravlax – Quick cured and seasoned salmon that takes a few minutes to prep and just a couple days in the fridge to get good. It’s a low effort, high reward project and just the thing to make if you’re planning a dinner party or fancy brunch.

Cured egg yolks – I’ve not made these before, so I point you in the direction of Hank Shaw for instructions here. From what I hear, this relatively quick cure produces something with the flavor and depth of good cheese.

Kraut – There’s so many directions to go here. Start with a recipe that appeals and begin to explore.

Kimchi – This is my favorite approach, but it just one of many. If you decide to go in this direction, do try to stay away from the brined recipes and stick to the ones that are salted directly, as we’ll focus on wet brined foods later in the year.

Soup base – I almost always have a jar of this vegetable-heavy paste in my fridge for giving depth to soups and stews.

As always, I’ll spend the next month posting recipes and troubleshooting guides focused on this month’s topic. Alex will also have a post that will feature her project. More soon!

What to do if you can’t have salt!

I’ve had a couple people reach out with health conditions that require they avoid salt to ask about how they might participate in this month’s challenge without actually using salt. If you find yourself in this camp, I suggest you take a look at the herb salt link above. You could make a dried herb and citrus zest blend. Or perhaps a salt-free version of homemade furikake (a Japanese seasoning blend that traditionally includes toasted sesame seeds, crumbled nori and bonito flakes).

Look for projects that are in the spirit of the challenge and expand your skills. That’s what I’m looking for!



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27 thoughts on "Salt Preserving for the February Mastery Challenge"

  • Oooh. This seriously will be a challenge because I just do not like salt! Maybe I will try the cured egg yolks. If it really does turn out something like cheese, it will be a winner here, since I’ve had to give up dairy.

  • I’ve been wanting to try salt preserved lemons but haven’t had the chance. Doing it with Key limes sounds interesting. I have a little Mexican grocery around the corner and an organic grocery and they both get fruit seasonally.

    Another thing that intrigues me is the herb salt. I think I might do several of these for future use in soups. Big fan of basil and chives.

  • This looks so good, but my kidneys are failing, and I can’t have salt. Is there an alternative you could suggest for people like me, or should I just sit this month out?

    1. Annette, what about making a combination of dried herbs and citrus zest to create a salt-free seasoning blend? It won’t last as long as something made with salt, but it would be a delicious alternative.

      1. Marisa, my daughter and I were in crisis and missed the turn in date. We each have a project to be counted as completed. What do we do?

  • I’ve been making and using salt preserved lemons for a few years now but the idea of salt preserved limes never occurred to me. The suggestion of using it with avocado is genius! I can’t wait to try it.

  • I think I;m going to try the salt cured egg yolks using my own chicken eggs, the herbes salees and maybe the kimchi and kraut. The only kraut I’ve ever had was store bought & I hated it. Maybe some good homemade kraut will change my mind!

  • So much useful information, thank you for all of these! Had never heard of salt preserved lemons before (even after having been to Ojai!) and the herb and citrus salts, very interesting!

  • For those of you who can’t have salt but still want to try some of these recipes, think gift-giving. I think most of the recipes would make great gifts – especially the citrus and herb salts.

  • I am just seeing this month’s challenge and have a couple of questions. Does preserving the citrus with salt produce a brine like cabbage when making saurkraut? Question 2…Are you using the brine part or the fruit part in your dishes?


  • Hi Marisa, I was thinking about making a shiitake salt, so I purchased dried shiitakes and salt and then realized that this probably is not in line with the challenge, what do you think? thanks