While I try not to consume too much sugar in my diet, I have recently become enamored with making homemade simple syrups infused with herbs from my garden.
A simple syrup is made by heating sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio. The sugar dissolves and is held in suspension, which make simple syrups ideal for sweetening cold drinks like ice tea, iced coffee, and lemonade. Herbal simple syrups are also a nice way to flavor seltzer water, and they can add interesting flavors to cocktails and dessert recipes.
For the infused simple syrup you see here, I added fresh lemongrass stalks from my garden, as well as a chile pepper that I grew and some ginger I picked up at the market (sadly, I cannot get ginger to grow here…at least not until I get a greenhouse). The result was a sweet and spicy syrup I can’t wait to use.
Herbal simple syrups are more of a technique than a strict recipe you must follow. To make this one, I combined 2 cups of sugar with 2 cups of water and warmed the mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolved. I then added a handful of lemongrass stalks (the bottom portion only) and 3 chunks of ginger about the size of my thumb. I did not bother peeling the ginger, just chopped it roughly. As I mentioned above, I added one small chile pepper, chopped, to this syrup because I wanted it to have a little “kick,” but the chile is completely optional.
After tossing in the lemongrass, the ginger and the chile, I let the syrup remain at a very low simmer with a cover on for about 90 minutes. At this point it was very fragrant so I took it off the stove and allowed it to cool a bit before funneling it into glass jars for storage in the refrigerator. I got about 3 cups of infused simple syrup from this recipe.
While I still have a bountiful herb garden, I plan to make syrups with rosemary, basil, mint, lemon balm, anise hyssop, and lavender, as well. I’ve read that if you increase the amount of sugar to 2 parts (and keep the water at 1 part), infused simple syrups are shelf stable and don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator. I will try that next.
–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.
Photo credits: Winnie Abramson