Though I try to limit the sugar in my diet, I have lately become obsessed with making homemade simple syrups. I love infusing them with herbs from my garden…the flavor possibilities are pretty much endless, and so are the ways you can use them. Plus I tell myself some of the healthy promoting effects of the herbs end up in the syrup.
A simple syrup is made by heating together equal parts sugar and water: the sugar dissolves and is held in suspension. Because they are liquid, simple syrups are ideal for sweetening cold drinks like ice tea, iced coffee, and lemonade. Herbal simple syrups are also a nice way to add interest to seltzer water, and they’re fun in cocktails and dessert recipes, too.
For the infused simple syrup you see here, I added fresh lemongrass stalks and a chile pepper from my garden. I cannot get ginger to grow here- at least not until I invest in a greenhouse- so the ginger came from the market. The result was an incredibly tasty syrup.
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 bunch of lemongrass stalks (the bottom portions 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”…the chile is completely optional, though.
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 straining it.
Then I poured it into glass jars for storage in the refrigerator, and I am having lots of fun putting it to use. I’ve added it to fresh unsweetened lemonade and mixed some into mead (wine made from honey). I’m guessing it will be fantastic over ice with seltzer and a little gin, vodka or rum mixed in, too.
I got about 3 cups of infused simple syrup from this recipe, and 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, so I’m going to give that a try.
Have you made herbal simple syrups before? How do you use them? I’d love to know :)
More Herbal Simple Syrups: