Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Herbal Simple Syrups: Easy, Delicious Gifts!

Yuletide is different for everyone. Some of us get excited and filled with joy at the many ways we can give, exchange, share, and create.

And some of us feel tired. Perhaps we have worked all year long and not gotten ahead yet, or perhaps we have a large family with all different personalities.

Perhaps we are stumped at what to offer our neighbors that would be lovely, personal, simple, yet not too freaky-deaky!

Herbal Syrups can provide a beautiful nature-connected gift that is simple, easy, versatile, and extremely cheap to make.

Yes, it has sugar. White sugar. So it's no good for those struggling with blood sugar issues. For them .... infuse the herbs into vinegar, oil, or butter ;)

Herbal Syrup

~ Start with a simple syrup in a non-reactive pot. A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar. For proportion's sake, lets say we put 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar into the pot. 

~ Next, add your herbs! Don't worry about exact amounts, just use common sense. 

~ Add 1/2 - 1 cup of herb if it's really strong, like Nutmeg, Clove, Hot Pepper, or Garlic.

~ Add about 1-2 cups of herb if it's on the strong side, like Ginger root. 

~ Add about 3-4 cups of herb if it's a medium and palatable strength herb, like Pine Needles, Peppermint, Cinnamon, or Licorice.

~ Gently keep the syrup at medium heat (always keep under boiling) until you reach the desired strength of flavor. This may take 20-40 minutes depending on the plant you've chosen. 

~ Strain carefully (simple syrups can seriously burn) through a cheesecloth lined strainer into a large pyrex with a pour spout. 

~ Bottle into food-grade bottles and label as desired.
White Pine Needle Syrup

Citrus Fruits are also fun to experiment with. I'm doing Meyer lemons this week! Keep in mind the sugar ratio though - if your fruit is going to add a lot more water content, you'll want to match that with more sugar. Otherwise it will not have the same preserving capability and will grow mold.

Traditional syrups are still valuable. If you have Elder berries, they make a wonderful purple syrup with flu-fighting properties. Pine needle syrup is excellent for lung congestion, and Peppermint is festive and helpful after a big meal. Ginger syrup is one of my favorites, and usually is a by-product of making crystallized ginger. However the syrup is soooo wonderful and appreciated at the holidays that now I make it for gifts!

Floral syrups are also lovely. Roses, Lavender, Jasmine, or Bee Balm flower syrups are all a welcome drizzle on ice cream, cake, or in a dessert cordial. How romantic!

Blends: Play around! Orange and clove make a classic pairing. Roses and Cocoa bits are decadent together, and traditional Chai spices can be combined to impress your Barista friends. (Ginger, Black Tea, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Clove, and a little Nutmeg)

Vanilla Bean is perhaps, the shining star of all things lovely in the kitchen, and makes the rounds as a welcomed gift for all tastes. Pair with homemade vanilla extract, of course.



Foraged Autumn Olives and Rose Hips, on their way to syrup together

This article was released for Poppy Swap! Where People and Herbs come together. Check it out! 

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