I wondered whether this was worth a blog post – after all, it’s hardly cutting edge – then I thought that I know, because I’ve been asked, that some things I find obvious, others don’t and, as sharing knowledge** is one of the principle reasons behind my blog, for better or worse, this is my celery salt.
**The value of knowledge is greatly diminished if it’s not shared.
I’ve been making this for some years, but never written it down before. Now, though, as I need to control my salt intake, I thought it would be a good idea to exercise a little more control over the process than my usual “if it looks right, it is right”. A philosophy, by the way, upon which much Spanish traditional cooking is based, and which has always served me very well, especially when cobbling up my own recipes.
Why celery salt and not simply crushed celery seed? I have no idea. Perhaps the salt preserves the crushed seed? I do know that using Maldon appears to extract more flavour from the crushed seed than, say, ordinary table or cooking salt, which also makes the salt a vehicle for the flavour. If you wish I see no reason why you simply can’t crush a pinch of seed with a mortar and pestle at need, but there’s no denying that celery salt is much more convenient.
Anyway, this time, I have something I didn’t have last time, a coffee mill (Krups F203), used as a spice and dehydrated vegetable mill. This enabled me to blitz the celery seed very fine, releasing more of its scent and flavour than simply breaking the seeds open, which was all my blender could achieve previously (Kenwood make shit blenders).
This is the current version (use a measuring spoon –cutlery spoons vary wildly in their capacity – or a 5ml medicine spoon, 3 = 1 tablespoon):-
4 level tablespoons celery seed
5 level tablespoons Maldon Sea Salt
This actually gives you less salt than seed, as the Maldon crystals take up quite a lot of space. If you feel you need more, add another tablespoon – I wouldn’t add more than that, though.
Blitz the seed in the mill (in batches; just fill the polished bowl, don’t overfill it), until it’s as fine as flour, then tip into a small, screw-capped jar with a tight seal (you’ll have to poke the milled seed out of the mill’s bowl, as it sticks – it’s safe to use your finger, the blades are quite blunt and, until the lid’s fitted, it can’t be turned on). Blitz the salt until it’s the texture of coarse sand – take care, this happens faster than you might think. If you wind up with fine powder, put it aside for cooking, and try again. Doing the salt second has the advantage of cleaning the grinder Under normal circumstances, blitzing a tablespoon of uncooked Basmati rice does the job.
Add to the seed in the jar and shake well to mix.
And that’s all there is to it, except that I generally toss in a plastic medicine spoon (never metal – the salt will corrode it quickly, as I found out when I left a “stainless steel” measuring teaspoon in my Maldon salt jar took ages to fish out all the brown salt crystals.
Not only is the celery salt better than any commercially available, it also works out a hell of a lot cheaper, as celery seed stores very well, kept in a sealed jar in a dark cupboard as, indeed, does the celery salt. No reason you couldn’t cut costs a tad and use table salt, if that’s your thing, but even if you don’t normally buy Maldon, it’s worth it just for this.
I have, by the way, tried making this with a mortar and pestle, and not only does it take longer, the result isn’t as good – the mill gives it exactly the right texture (watch it like a hawk until you get used to it – it works faster than you might think), and, of course – important in spoonie-land – takes no effort at all.
However, if you can’t, or don’t want to, go to the expense of buying the Krups mill, a blender will give perfectly acceptable results. It’s a fact, though, that the mill is better and, in my case, gets used for far more things than I ever thought it would.
The company from which I bought my celery seed has since been taken over, and I have no idea if the quality has suffered. They’re here** and there’s an alternative, but much more expensive source, which I’ve not used, here. The nature of the celery plant means that, inevitably, some very fine plant material is inseparable from the seed, in that it’s impossible to remove all of it. How much remains, or if no attempt is made to clean the seed, affects the quality considerably, and both the above sources are unknown quantities at present (though the pic on the former’s website isn’t encouraging – there seems to be a lot of debris there). The former site also has vegetable powders too, about the quality of which I know nothing. Those I do buy, here, are excellent quality. That link takes you to most vegetable and fruit powders; for some reason, onion powder is out on its own, here. I’m going to ask them to put it in with the others, so if you find that link doesn’t work, go to Onion in the left-hand menu. I’ve used onion, and tomato, powders so far (in addition to those I’ve made myself), and they’ve been very good.
**Do check delivery costs on that site. On any site, really – far too many use postage to boost their profits, and you don’t want to wind up paying a fixed-rate £6.00 for a few ounces of seed!
I’ve just used the last of my seed – in the dark, and a tightly-closed jar, it keeps very well – so I’ll be finding out for myself about quality. When I do, I’ll post the information.
These guys are worth checking out, I’ve not bought celery seed from them, but I have bought other seeds, like mustard, and the quality has been fine.
Make sure, too, that you always buy food-grade seed, as seed intended for garden use might have been treated with a fungicide or other chemicals. The links above are for food-grade seed.
As I said, even further above, I also use the mill to process dehydrated vegetables to powder to make a savoury spread (blitzed in the blender first, which gives a coarse powder ideal for adding to soups and stews, some of it is finished to a very fine powder in the Krups mill). I use Clover as a base, adding mixed dried veg powder plus tomato and onion powders. Used in sandwiches it obviates the need to season with salt (see this post for details and links).
Trial and error will give you proportions that suit you, just remember the spread should enhance the contents of the sandwich, not swamp it. It’s also good on toast.
I use standard Clover, though any other spread would do as well, even softened butter (there’s a long tradition of savoury butters, usually involving anchovies). I don’t know about low-fat spreads (I prefer to reduce my fat intake simply by eating less fat, as I think low-fat food is an abomination). I suspect the water content might make the powders a bit claggy, though mixing them with a little olive oil first might prevent that if it’s a problem.
One final note – because of its design, with a small, shallow, bowl and flat blades – the Krups F203 is perfectly designed for milling seeds and pretty much anything else to flour-fineness. I can’t vouch for any other make or design.