Springtime brings the loveliest distractions. We emerge from our grey cocoons of dormancy to find that everything is tender and beautiful. I find myself gazing longingly at blooms and shoots, feeling the coming abundance. Even though I have had a productive winter, I have ignored this space because it is so much easier to share works-in-progress on Instagram. I love the immediacy of capturing something on my phone instead of having to lug around my big camera and lenses.
This spring we had lots of healthy green tips on our spruce tree. The new growth is tiny, tender, and green. The scent is unexpected, with only a hint of pine or resin. Instead the overwhelming scent is vegetal, bold, almost like fresh-snapped green beans. For me it is the scent of spring. Over the past few years we have used our spruce tips to make beer, vinegar, simple syrup, and snaps/schnapps. This year I wanted a quick project that would highlight their bright, fresh scent so I made a couple of small batches of spruce tip salt. The process is so easy that I find myself wondering what else can be made into flavored salt. My first salt experiment was last fall with red shiso made with shiso cullings and I was so pleased with the results.
The first batch of spruce tip salt that I made was lovely jade green. I combined a handful of fresh tips with an equal volume of sea salt. I also added a couple of pinches of smoked alder salt. The second batch of salt tastes wonderful, but I made the mistake of adding a little Hawaiian pink salt, and the combination of lime green tips and bright pink salt made a most horrible color - kind of a puke pink brown. Perfect for enjoying at home, but not so nice for gifting. I am sticking with white sea salt.
It is best to pick the smaller just-opened spruce tips in the cool morning hours. Choose from a tree that is abundant in tips, making sure to take them from different parts of the tree. Harvest only what you need, leaving as much on the tree as possible. The tips are the tree's new growth and will open up to become part of the branch.
SPRUCE TIP SALT
You can scale this up or down by using a 1:1 ratio of spruce tips to sea salt.
½ cup spruce tips, cleaned of any debris
½ cup sea salt or kosher salt
A few pinches of smoked alder salt (optional)
Combine the whole clean tips and salt(s) in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Pour the ground salt onto a parchment or cloth lined tray. Let the salt mixture dry completely in a warm spot or in an oven set to warm. The color will fade some. Store in a covered jar.
The scent and flavor of this salt is lemony and vegetal - a little more green beans than spruce tree, but it really adds the scent of spring. I love it on fried or scrambled eggs. The scent pops when sprinkled on warm dishes of spring vegetables, potatoes, or fish. Add it to anything that could use a dash of bright spring flavor. It is magical on avocado toast!