The music industry and web applications aren’t the only folk creating mashups. There’s plenty of that kind of blending going on in Wisconsin’s food world. Take Mark Olson, for example. Since 1985, he’s been president/farmer of Renaissance Farms in Spring Green.
Mark’s an award-winning, artisanal food producer with pestos, olive oils and vinaigrettes among the products that “grew” out of his garden. According to his web site, Olson farms two to three acres in Southwestern Wisconsin. ”He farms naturally, weeds by hand, and tends both the plants and the soil. He even invented ‘Chitty,’ a unique piece of equipment that he uses to help pick the herbs.”
But somewhere around 2001 or 2002 (he’s not quite sure), Mark went beyond pestos, oils and vinaigrettes and created Zalta Herb-Infused Sea Salts. That’s where the mashup really began.
“I watched a cooking show and they showed a method that created a salt covered with the herbs and I wondered how I could make it better, truly infused,” Mark explained. ”I love questions and I keep them present – paying attention to thoughts or events that might be part of the answer. One morning I woke up and went, Maybe!? Came to work and started playing. Hit it on the first try.”
What he hit upon was infusing unrefined Italian sea salt with fresh herbs from his garden, creating four flavors: Green Garlic, Thyme, Sweet Basil and Rosemary. You can actually see the color of the herb (and taste it) inside the salt crystal, where most other salts are coated with the herb.
Mark’s not giving away the secret, but says the infusion process involves “fresh herbs, sea salt and magic.” :)
Whatever the magic is, the salt is loaded with the herb flavor which penetrates your food better, yet salts it. I tried the Green Garlic and wished I would have picked up the other flavors. The Renaissance site suggests using:
- the Green Garlic fine grind on popcorn, nuts, edamame, mashed potatoes, French or sweet potato fries (with paprika)
- the medium grind with brown sugar and rub over salmon and bake
All the salts are in glass grinder jars that offer three meshes: fine, medium and coarse. Like Mark’s other products, Zalta salts are produced in small batches for optimal flavor. And, of course, all Renaissance Farm packaging is reusable, biodegradable, recycled or recyclable.
Start off your new year in good taste – give the Zalta infused sea salts a try!
Have a good weekend!