Herbal Infused Simple Syrups

I love experimenting in the kitchen. My mother taught me to cook when I was quite young, and since she liked to try new things in the kitchen, I guess it rubbed off on me. The latest thing I’ve been playing around with is infused simple syrups. I already knew how to make a simple syrup, so all I needed to figure out was exactly how to infuse it with my herb of choice! Since we have a lot of mint growing in containers, I decided to start by making a mint infused simple syrup.

mint for infusing simple syrup

mint for infusing simple syrup

For my first attempt, I chose a variety of spearmint called ‘Mint Julep’ that has a strong and characteristic spearmint flavor. I gathered a handful (3 or 4 sprigs) of this mint and give it a quick rinse. For the sugar I used some organic turbinado sugar, which I thought would give the syrup a nice flavor and color. I combined equal parts of sugar and water (1 cup each) in a small saucepan and brought it up to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then I added my mint and stirred it in the sugar water mixture until it was covered. I removed it from the heat, covered the pan, and let it steep for about 30 minutes.

straining the syrup

straining the syrup

After steeping, I poured the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar, then refrigerated. Once it had cooled down, I began experimenting with using the syrup. It was great mixed in with some sliced strawberries for dessert. And it made a lovely iced mint flavored sweet tea. If I were still imbibing, I am thinking you could mix it with rum for a killer mojito.

flowering Melissa lavender

flowering Melissa lavender

I enjoyed the mint simple syrup so much I decided to try making one with lavender. My wife is the queen of lavender around here, and she grows several different varieties and dries the flowers for later use. Melissa is a pinkish-white flowered English lavender variety we grow that is supposed to be great for culinary uses. So I made another syrup that was infused with some of our 2012 dried Melissa lavender. I used 4 tbsp. of dried lavender in the syrup, using the same amount of sugar and water (1 cup each) and the same basic method. For comparison, I also made a syrup using some dried Provence lavender.

dried flower buds of Provence lavender

dried flower buds of Provence lavender

Tasting the lavender infused syrups was quite interesting. There was a definite difference between the Melissa and Provence versions. While the Provence syrup was stronger, it also had a pronounced aftertaste, no doubt due to the camphorous components in the essential oils of this Lavendin (L. x intermedia) variety. Overall the Melissa version tasted much better. In the future I think I will stick to varieties of English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) like Hidcote, Munstead or our Melissa.

lavender infused syrup

lavender infused syrup

Of course, mint and lavender aren’t the only two herbs that can be infused in a simple syrup. Rosemary sounds like another interesting option, as does basil. Just this week our friend Mary was telling me about a strawberry basil sweet tea she had tasted recently, and that was sweetened with a basil infused simple syrup. I also found recipes for strawberry basil sorbet. I am thinking the possibilities for herbal infused syrups are limited only by the imagination! Lemongrass and lemon verbena are two more candidates for infusing. I can see them working well with fruits.

I will keep on experimenting with herbal infused syrups, and I would like to try infusing some honey when we have some of our 2013 crop harvested. So what about all of you out there, have you made or tasted herb infused simple syrups? If so, I’d like to hear all about it!

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7 Responses to Herbal Infused Simple Syrups

  1. Barbie says:

    I’m forever adding mint into my teas and a bit of sugar. This would be much nicer I think. Funny I’ve thought to do this with lemon ahead of time, but not with the herbs. Eh. Time to rethink!

  2. The lavender sounds interesting. I wonder how the Melissa lavender would be in lavender shortbread cookies? Sometimes I find the culinary lavenders do indeed have a little bitter bite to them, so maybe Melissa would be a better choice.

    For syrup, I think one of my favorite simple syrups is lemon verbena, but mint is a classic!

    • Dave says:

      I can personally vouch that Melissa makes for some lovely tasting shortbread cookies. I wish I had one (or two) right now to nibble on!

  3. Sherrie S. says:

    The mint syrup sounds really delicious in iced tea — now I just have to wait for our weather to warm up a bit so I can switch from hot coffee to iced tea.

  4. Daphne says:

    Well I’m not big on sugar in my tea or it would be fun to try a lot of those. I could see making mixed drinks with a lot of the herbs though. Lemon balm comes to mind. And of course any of the mints. Maybe I could get together enough of the rose petals too. The big flush is over, but I wouldn’t need much.

  5. bavaria says:

    I love making rhubarb syrup and mixing it in a glass of ice with club soda. To get the juice out of the rhubarb, I roughly chop it and toss it in the freezer. Once it has frozen solid, thaw it and the juice comes out readily. Also makes it easy for me to postpone dealing with it until fall when I have more time.
    Or if you are in a hurry, roughly chop the rhubarb and heat it in a pot with a small amount of water, just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Cook til soft and strain.

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