Friday, June 25, 2010

Herbal Infusions: Simple Syrup

As you develop a collection of fresh herbs growing on your patio, balcony, or in your garden, you'll eventually find yourself wondering what to do with all that bounty.  So, part of the goal of this summer herb series is to give you a few more ideas to add to your repertoire.

This week, we're going to focus on something easy and sweet. Something perfect for all the hot summer weather that's approaching in July. And something you may never have tried before: herbal simple syrup.

One of my favorite ways to get the most from summer herbs is to make simple syrups.  You can use simple syrup to flavor selzer water, sweeten iced tea or lemonade, or even coffee. You can use the syrup to create an interesting herbal dressing for fruit salad (imagine melon balls soaked in mint or basil syrup), homemade ice pops, a fruit soup (strawberry soup with lemon verbena, maybe?), or a fruit and herb sorbet (blackberry basil? vanilla tarragon?). And the syrup adds an amazing layer of flavor when drizzled over a simple bundt cake or sprinkled between the layers of a sponge cake before frosting.

The Good News
There's nothing particularly complicated about making simple syrup, and infusing your syrup with herbal flavors is easy as pie.  All you need is sugar, water, and a few sprigs of your favorite herb. The usual ratio of sugar to water  is 1:1.  This mixture must be kept in the refrigerator and is best used up within a month. However, if you increase the sugar content (2:1), the mixture becomes stable for storage at room temperature and will last for up to 6 months (more info here).  This would be my preferred method for syrups I'd like to keep for an extended period of time.

The (maybe not so) Bad News
On the one hand, you'll have all sorts of great new ideas up your sleeve for entertaining. On the other hand, you'll be tempted to make all sorts of sugary treats once you happen upon your favorite herbal combination. And THAT might pose some not-so-great news for your waistline.  For example, the last time we made our infusions, we went a little crazy over our discovery of Iced Coffee with Lemon Verbena Syrup. (Lemon and coffee may seem like a far-fetched combo, but it's really quite delicious!)
And it was pretty hard to say no to yet another Vodka Rosemary Fizz after a long day at work.
But, overall, I'm going to guess that experimenting with simple syrups will introduce you to a completely new way of looking at herbs. It's not only a great way to preserve your bountiful herbal harvest for a few extra months, but it will help you to exercise your sense of adventure and discovery of new and interesting flavor combinations.

The Master Recipe: Herb Infused Simple Syrup

And here are even more resources for you to explore, if you want to do some experimenting:
This post is part of our Summer 2010 Herb Series: Using and Preserving Herbs. Stay tuned every Friday for more hints, tips and tricks on how to use summer's bounty!

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  1. I've had good luck with putting my mint SS in the freezer in a sturdy plastic container and then enjoying it in winter! I'll be trying hyssop syrup this weekend.

  2. Great way to use those herbs!

  3. Lori - Good to know that the syrup freezes well! We've never tried it, so I didn't want to give it a full-fledged recommendation. We love mint (or mint lime) syrup for making mojitos :)

  4. I love doing stuff like this with my herbs. Mint syrup is da bomb for sweetening homemade iced teas and lemonade. I utterly adore your rosemary syrup. I once made a syrup of apricot hyssop and poured it with peach liquer into a glass of proseco. I'm thinking I should try something with my basil this summer.

  5. I love how simple this idea is (pun absolutely positively intended)! But more than that how it will use up all those odds and end herbs that I amass over the course of a week!

  6. 2:1 ratio for shelf stable?! The last time (last summer) I went thru the trouble of making a syrup it actually molded in my fridge within a week! I know sugar is a preservative (I'm counting on it, as I get older :) ), but didn't know the ratio! I think I'll do this straight away when I get home... and also pour it into a sterilized jar- boiled for 10 minutes- I have a sneaky feeling that will help it last longer. (I sterilized jars for the chocolate syrup I made, still good after months, and it helped when I cultured sour cream, too!) Now to decide which flavor to make first!

  7. Oh wow, that fizz looks awesome! Iced coffee too! Yay for herbal infusions!

  8. it's 10 pm here, but I would love that iced coffee right now ;)

  9. 'Syrop's are very popular here.... more so than canned soft drinks. I can get them in loads of flavors including Iced Tea (which is good) and Cola (why bother) but my favorites are Lime, Gragefruit, Grenedine and Mint. One just adds a spoonful to plain or fizzy water. Never thought of making my own.... Great idea!

  10. Interesting.....thanks for the idea!


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