Our fields in Roggwil are usually covered in snow this month and not much can be seen in the herb gardens. This is an excellent opportunity to bring you to some other fields we have a few hundred miles away.
The Alsace is situated in the Eastern part of France and lies next to both Germany and Switzerland. Over the centuries, the border with Germany has shifted numerous times and the culture of the region has many Germanic influences.
For instance, the shape of the bottles of characteristic and delicious Alsace wine are long and thin – more like German wine bottles of old than the usual French ones. In addition, one of the traditional dishes of the area is choucroute: pickled cabbage prepared in the same way as sauerkraut.
The area also gave its name to the Alsatian dog (more precisely, Alsatian Wolf dog), otherwise known as the German Shepherd dog.
In the southern part of Alsace lies a small town called Colmar. This is where we make Herbamare – our sea salt mixed with organically grown herbs and vegetables. All of us know that there is too much salt in our modern diet so why did Alfred Vogel go to the trouble of developing a herb salt?
Like many things in life, the answer lies in having a holistic or ‘wider’ view. Vogel reasoned that when flavouring food, it is not how much salt you add to your food but the quality of salt that is important.
Sea salt contains both sodium chloride (the salt chemical) and traces of iodine and other minerals. This is the reason it makes food taste better than chemically produced, refined salt. Herbamare takes this a step further by combining sea salt with 14 different vegetables, herbs and spices. In this way, it delivers a wider spectrum of flavours to food, delighting and satisfying the palate.
This concept should ring a bell with good cooks all over the world who know that herbs, vegetables and spices are a substantial part of the flavour in many well-prepared meals. Less salt is required in meals thus seasoned.
To make Herbamare, we start with organic herbs and vegetables grown locally in the Alsace within easy reach of our factory, and unrefined sea salt from the Camargue region of France. The method we use mirrors the preparation of a fresh herb tincture in a remarkable way.
Fresh vegetables and herbs are delivered to our factory within hours of harvesting, usually before 8am in the morning.
These are individually chopped, and if you happen to be nearby when the leeks are being dealt with you will need several hankies, as the air is pungent with the aroma released from these tasty relatives of the onion, and your eyes will stream accordingly!
The vegetables are then mixed with sea salt and left to macerate for at least 3 months – this period of time allows the sea salt to become infused with the flavour of the vegetables. After the sea salt infused mixture has matured, it is dried at low temperature.
Finally, the individual vegetable and herb salts are mixed to give the characteristic Herbamare flavour, and packed. So, the next time you are enjoying a meal made using Herbamare, think of the Alsace region where it comes from.
Better still if your delicious meal is accompanied by an Alsace wine!