The calendar has rolled to June, and in the minds of many that means one thing: Christmas. Yes, it’s time to make decisions for Holiday decor and begin to lay in some gifts. I have noticed that suddenly, my biggest Pinterest hits relate to Christmas and Christmas gifts. And I was asked to submit some material for a holiday publication, which I completed over the last few days. Yes, Christmas is on a lot of people’s minds. Including mine; I bought two bundles of very fragrant, fresh chamomile two weeks ago and I have been watching them slowly dry out on the kitchen counter in the afternoon sun. Today it was time to make something of them.
While in Paris recently, I settled on home-made bath salts as part of my Christmas gifting. Not epsom salts, not Dead Sea salts, not iodized salts or just any salt, not even any kind of French salts, I’m going to gift the very best, from Brittany: Sel de Guérande. I have seen salts being harvested elsewhere in Brittany, but have yet to make the trek to Guérande itself to see the marshes. You can buy the finest fleur de sel from Guérande at the President Wilson market in the 16th in Paris, and you can also buy the coarse grey sel de Guérande in almost any grocery store in France for about $1.50 for a kilo. It tastes like the Atlantic ocean, and it gets its grey color for the clay in the dense marshes where the salt is harvested. Reve will have a special tip for Paris travellers using this salt. You can use it for cooking or for the bath; but for now, I want to set up the salts to infuse over the next few months, using summer herbs when they are fresh. I have a few other ideas, but I need to get back to France first to buy a few ingredients. Today I used what I have on hand: the best French lavender buds, coarse grey Guérande sea salt and the chamomile. This is going to be the Insomniac’s Salts.
I also brought out the last little bottle of lavender essence that I bought at the 12th Century Cistercian Abbey de Sénanque in Provence near Gordes. I never go to Provence without stopping here; and if you go, be sure to buy as much of the lavender essence as you can use and afford; I love it. The other two vials are a Honeysuckle essential oil, and on the right, Orange essential oil. I have had these two vials for about 25 years, no joke, and they have become thick and a little syrupy but their fragrance has only intensified. When it’s hot in the summer, I love a touch of the three of these together. You know how some perfumes can “turn” after a few years, and how pure essences and perfumes deepen and improve over time? Well, that’s these three little jewels. I don’t remember where I bought the two vials, I just know I love them. And they also remind me I really really need to go to Grasse sometime soon….in any case, they are my little touch of love to this batch of bath salts; something pure and dear to me.
The salts came from the jar that sits next to my stove. I use a pinch when boiling water. This also makes a great Christmas gift for the chef in your life. This salt is so expensive here, but from France it is a much-appreciated gift. Look for it when you travel there.
I layered and poured and stirred the salts, flowers, lavender and oils together in the jar. I included as many of the chamomile leaves as I could as those are also fragrant. I’ll let all of this sit, covered tightly, for a few months and let them infuse, and then later this year I’ll pick some of the chamomile stems out. This jar smells super amazing, but I decided to leave the salts in the jar for a final photo rather than get the oils on my cutting board.
Are you thinking of Christmas gifts or are you thinking I am crazy and way ahead of the seasons? I mentioned before, in NYC I hated all that bell ringing and crowds and stuff and by September 1 each year I was DONE with Christmas shopping. It’s never too early to start, that’s my thought; I’ll show you the next versions of the bath salts later, as well as how I will package them.