The idea for making tomato salt came as I was watching the second season of PBS’s “Mind of a Chef” in an episode where Chef April Bloomfield visited Jacobsen Salt Co. The basic premise of harvesting salt is evaporating the water from seawater, leaving behind only the salt and other minerals present. Following the same principle, dissolving salt into tomato water and then evaporating out the water would leave behind the salt and concentrated tomato flavor.
I started by warming up a 3:1 mixture of tomato water to kosher salt, stirring constantly just until the salt dissolved. I placed the solution into a glass vessel and put the whole thing in an oven set at 210F. Do not use aluminum cookware with tomatoes. The aluminum reacts with the acid leaving a metallic taste in the final product.
Step 2: wait for the water to evaporate…. I can’t tell you exactly how long this takes because I turned the oven off when I went to work and back on when I came home. As the water evaporated, I made sure to scrape down the salt that built up along the side of the pan so it would not burn. When the product had the texture of wet sand, I transferred it to a sheet tray allowing the salt to dry more evenly. Here are photos as the process progressed.
At this point, the salt is the consistency of brown sugar, which makes sense if you think of all the sugar left over from the tomato. The last step is the break the salt back up into its original granulated form. For this step, the good old mortar and pestle works the best.
Results – The salt has a beautiful maroon color. The aroma is distinctly tomato while the taste has a huge umami component which is trickier to pin down to any specific fruit or vegetable. There is definitely a sweetness that comes out a little bit if used as a finishing salt on more subtle dishes. Most of the nuance would be lost on a meat dish or on something that was already punching with flavor. I finished my scrabbled eggs with the tomato salt and it was very good.
Afterthoughts – This took a long time to make but not a lot of work so it was definitely worth making. I would like to try to make it even more “tomatoey” next time, perhaps with a higher ratio of tomato water to salt.