Herbal Jelly, Sugar, and Syrup

Perhaps I am unimaginative but I never thought much beyond cinnamon and sugar. Now I know that herbs can be added to jelly, sugar, syrup, and beverages. We have all heard of mint jelly but there are other good choices too.

According to Leslie Bremness, author of Complete Book of Herbs, tart apples make an excellent base for jelly. Chop up four apples and boil them in four cups of water, one cup of wine vinegar, and a generous handful of herbs. Once cooked down the mix should be allowed to strain through cheesecloth overnight. The next day add one cup of sugar per one cup of juice. Boil slowly, stirring constantly until syrup begins to set. Pour into clean, sterilized jars. Note that jelly can be made sweet by eliminating the vinegar and replacing it with an additional cup of water. She suggests that the vinegar recipe could include basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory or thyme; this recipe is suitable for meat menus. The sweet recipe could include bergamot, calendula, lavender flowers, lemon balm, lemon verbena, or violet. But clearly the sky is the limit here.

Herbal sugar is easy to make. One cup of sugar can be layered with 1/8 cup of dried herbs or 3/8 cup of fresh herb. An occasional shake will disperse the scent.

Syrups require that herbs, whatever you might choose, be simmered for about a half hour with just enough water to keep them covered. Then strain the mixture for at least an hour through cheesecloth. Add one cup of sugar for each cup of liquid and simmer again for about fifteen minutes. Transfer to clean, sterilized jars and refrigerate. Because homemade syrups do not keep you can also pour the mixture into something plastic and freeze it.

Beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike, can be beautifully garnished with herbs and flowers. Frosted flowers from an earlier post are nice for this. Some herb considerations include angelica, bergamot, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, and woodruff.

Reference: The Complete Book of Herbs by Leslie Bremness.

You really must get a copy of this book. It is incredible and a delight to read.

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