Thursday, August 5, 2010

Minty Fresh Summer

I am not a big fan of iced tea.  This is mainly the result of many disappointing glasses of mediocre restaurant iced tea.  In the summer however, I do tend to indulge, but I prefer to make it at home in the style of my paternal grandmother, Elvira Jackson.   Grandma Jackson made amazing iced tea!  During my annual summer visits to Bessemer, Alabama, she'd make what seemed like endless pitchers of it--brown, super sweet and with sprigs of fresh mint.  In all my worldly adolescent travels, I knew of no other person clever enough to use mint in iced tea.  Genius, I concluded. 

My involvement in making the iced tea, or anything else in Elvira Jackson's kitchen, was usually relegated to picking some vegetable or herb in the sprawling backyard garden behind the house.  Under heavy direction from one or both grandparents, I'd select the best possible sprigs.  In that garden, during those long, summer days, I learned a lot about gardening.  Much of the knowledge  I employ today in my own garden was obtained, by osmosis, on iced tea afternoons. 

photo: dara jackson wiggins

So, when the mint plant near the garage at my own home started taking over our sunny border,  I came up with the idea for making Mint Simple Syrup to jazz up regular Black Iced Tea.  This homage to my grandmother borrows from her original "recipe" but uses more mint and keeps nicely in the fridge for a month or more.  

I still put a fresh sprig in my glass as a tribute to Elvira.   I think she would approve.

Sharing the love of minted iced tea,


Mint Simple Syrup
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup sugar (I prefer brown sugar)
1 cup water

Bring the mint, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into an airtight container like a mason jar and refrigerate until ready to use or at least three hours. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.

Using Mint Simple Syrup in Iced Tea: Brew your favorite tea according to instructions for making iced tea. Add simple syrup to taste.  Stir, taste and add more if desired.  I usually start with about a 1/4 cup for 2 quarts of tea.  Unless you like really, really sweet--like Southern style--iced tea, DO NOT ADD sugar!

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