Hop salt offers an ingenious way of adding the aromas of hops to food, while leaving the bitterness out. Whether you will be sprinkling it over fries, using it to flavor roasted veggies or grilled meat or adding it to brines – chances are you will love the results!
We are gearing up to post a number of recipes using hop salt as a flavoring agent here on the blog which makes this post about making hop salt an absolute necessity.
Did you know that the majority of what we taste (some say up to 90 percent) in food is driven by our sense of smell? Yep – olfaction plays a key role in the perception of taste. In addition, we humans are biologically wired to reject strong bitter tastes, which is the main reason that we shy away from them in our food. (Not so much in craft beer as many Imperial IPA lovers can confirm:).
Let’s just say that to truly enjoy our food we need pleasant smells first and foremost and even though we sometimes acquire a learned enjoyment of bitterness (it is in fact necessary in balancing the maltiness of craft beer) we would rather not encounter too much bitterness in our meals.
Chris and I are fans of using hops and hop salt for the enticing aromas they bring to food. Whether used as a finishing salt or assigned more of a role in a dish hops can act as herbs in cooking.
So, let’s do this and make some hop salt!
By way of ingredients you pretty much need sea salt and hops. You’ll also need a small glass container with an air tight lid. You will combine the salt with the hops, close the lid and wait for a few days while the hops are infusing the salt with their aromas.
There are two very similar approaches to making hop salt – using hop pellets or using whole hop flowers (dried). We love them both.
How to Make Hop Salt Using Hop Pellets
Hop pellets are simply female hop flowers that have been dried, ground into powder and compressed into firm pellets. Pellets are easier to store and transport because due to their compressed nature they take up less space. They also last longer. Most breweries and home brewers use pellets.
You can get hop pellets at your local home brewer supply store or from the various online equivalents. If you are not very familiar with the different hop profiles we recommend visiting a place so you can smell the hops and pick the ones you like the most.
For the hop pellet salt in this post I went through Chris’ stash of leftover packets from various home brews and picked Cascade hops. Since the hops get completely mixed with the grains of salt, it is important that they are not very bitter.
Cascade hops are the most commonly used American variety, known as the original American citrus ‘bomb’ hop. They are commonly used as a finishing hop. Lower in alpha acids (i.e. less bittering potential) Cascade hops are perfect for adding to salt. They have a medium intensity citrusy aroma which is also part spicy and part floral.
The pellets I used were just a tad bit old (hops tend to lose their bittering and aromatic properties quite fast, even if stored properly), so I could afford to be generous with the quantity I added. With fresher pellets, especially if using a hop with a more potent flavor profile, I would have opted for using a much smaller quantity.
A general rule of thumb for this method of making hop salt is to use 1 tsp of ground hop pellets to each 1 tbsp of sea salt. You can adjust the proportion up or down based on the flavor profile of your hops of choice and the freshness factor.
To make the salt simply grind the pellets in a mortar to a fine powder and mix with the salt. Taste to assess the flavor and add more ground pellets as needed. Close the container, shake the ingredients well and let the salt get infused with flavor.
How to Make Hop Salt Using Hop Flowers (Cones)
Using dried hop flowers (whole cones) is an alternative method. Here you simply place the hop flowers (cones) inside a container, cover them with sea salt and close the container. The hops will infuse the salt with aroma. Dried hop flowers are very fragile, so handle them with care because the leaves can fall apart easily.
Whole hops retain more of their essential oils (volatile aromatic compounds) than pellets because they are not manipulated (processed) and the glands containing these compounds are left intact. Many brewers use them for dry hopping – infusing the beer with more aroma without adding extra bitterness.
I used Columbus hop flowers (cones) to demonstrate this method. Columbus hops are high in alpha acids (i.e. have high bittering potential) but are used for both bittering and finishing, thanks to their sharp and pungent aromas. When used in their whole cone form they will infuse the salt with delicious aromas of black pepper, licorice, curry-like spice and very subtle citrus and as long as not mixed with the salt too much, will not add bitterness.
Which method you use is up to you and your intention for the hop salt you are creating. Playing with hop salt is fun and you can test many varieties of hops to find flavor profiles and intensity that appeal to your individual palate. We like having two or more different ones at any given time.
A cute little jar of hop salt makes a unique and always well received gift to craft beer fans. It can totally spark interest and open the doors to cooking with beer. Just saying, in case you have a friend who would love some.
I cannot wait to share our favorite recipes using hop salt! You know what is coming first, right? A salt rimmed…