Posts Tagged With: drinks

Savor Southwestern Iced Tea

Jacqueline here in this last week of a sweltering May, with a look ahead to next month. June is “National Iced Tea Month,” so time to think about some iced teas to help you Savor the Southwest.

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Language purists will remind us that true tea comes from Camellia sinensis, grown in the tropics, and any “herbal tea” is in fact a “tisane,” but the English language is subject to change over time, thus I am using the term “tea” to mean any herb infused into a beverage.

Speaking of infusing – teas should be prepared as an infusion. Infusions are made by adding water to fresh or dried herbs and allowing them time to infuse the water with their oils and flavors. The water can be hot or cold, depending on how strong a flavor you desire and how quickly. Avoid decoctions, where the plants are placed in boiling water and held over heat. This will extract plant compounds better left in the plant.

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Mint tea garnished with fresh mint and a slice of orange.

Traditional iced tea is often served with lemon. That is a nice way to blend flavors and engage your palate with both the bitterness of the tea and the sourness of the lemon at the same time. With this in mind, I like to put together more than one herb at a time for a richer gustatory experience.

Mint tea can be garnished with a fresh sprig of mint, and a slice of orange. I find the sweet orange helps highlight the tang of the mint in a pleasant way.

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Calendula grows well in winter in the Southwest.

Calendula tea from the petals I dried all winter is made tangy with a slice of lemon and a fresh bay leaf – delightful! I tried calendula with mint and didn’t like the way the flavors worked together.

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Calendula tea with bay and lemon.

Thyme is tasty indeed, and I find it freshens the palate. Rather than cucumber water at your next soiree, try some thyme.

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Thyme tisane.

I have tried all sorts of blends over thyme – I mean time – and tea with mint, sage, and a sprig of fennel was unique. The licoricy fennel blended nicely with the earthy notes of sage. The fennel plants are gone for the year, but next year I’m going to leave the mint out.

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Tea from mint, sage, and fennel. Some blends work better than others.

Run out of lemons? Don’t forget the lemony and luscious barrel cactus I wrote about in November 2014. The fruits add a wonderful citrus-like tang to teas and can be used in place of lemon. This is also good if you are trying to only eat things in season – the barrel fruit from last autumns blush of bloom is ripening nicely now.

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Barrel cactus fruit can be dried for use like lemon peel.

I hope you will celebrate Iced Tea Month by savoring some new teas. Please do let us know if you find a blend we should share! We welcome your ideas.

 

JAS avatarWant to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

 

 

Categories: edible flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, Libations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luscious Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here today, a few days after winter solstice with the holiday entertaining frenzy in full swing.  Making old favorite recipes and experimenting with new ones.
juicer-1602902Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  Today I will share three ways to make lemony alcoholic drinks – to give as gifts NEXT holiday season.   All you need are lemons (or other fruit – see notes below), inexpensive vodka, sugar, and some bottles.
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Fruit. If you do not have lemons, these recipes will work with other fruit or even edible flowers. I have successfully used currants, elderberry, orange, blackberry, red clover flowers, and dandelion flowers.  Most cordials are half syrup (1 cup juice to 1 cup sugar) and half alcohol.

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Alcohol.  I use the cheapest vodka there is because aging it with fruits and sugar smooths out the flavor and makes the vodka’s humble origins quite unnoticeable.  You could also use the pure grain alcohol, sold as Everclear.  You just need something that is at least 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).  You want enough alcohol in the mix to kill any bacteria or fungi that might want to inhabit your beverages.  Dilution can occur after decanting and before consumption.

Time.  These drinks are best aged for a minimum of 6 months.  The absolute tastiest I have made is some dandelion cordial that is going on 6 years old now, and every year it just gets smoother and mellower.  I imagine that at some point this time advantage will be lost but I only made 8 jars so the experiment has 2 more years to run.

 

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Remember to label your creation and include the date.  Sharpie is easily erased with rubbing alcohol.

Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.  You can make fancier labels for gift giving when the time comes.

Lemon Vodka
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One lemon sliced finely and layered into bottle of choice.
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles.  Add more vodka as needed.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or three days to eliminate air bubbles.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

Lemon Cordial with Lemons
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Slice lemon finely.
Coat with sugar.
Layer into bottle.
Fill bottle with these sugared lemon slices.
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Add more vodka as needed.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or 3 days to eliminate air bubbles and dissolve sugar.
The sugar against the fruit helps draw out the juice.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

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Lemon Juice Cordial

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Juice lemons.
For 1 cup lemon juice, add one cup sugar and one cup inexpensive vodka.
Shake well.
For the first 2 weeks shake every 2 or 3 days until all sugar is dissolved.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

Enjoy!  I am looking forward to sampling these cordials this summer, when a refreshing lemon drink is in order.  Or perhaps next winter solstice – as a warmed up lemony drink.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

 

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule.  All rights reserved.  Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission.  I receive many requests to reprint my work.  My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.  Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule – they may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, fruit | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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