Use herb syrup in place of the liquid in cakes, pie filling and all types of baked goods, brush them on warm muffins or pound cakes, drizzle them onto fruits and fruit salads (see related recipe), use them in beverages and to make sorbets.
Although this recipe uses a standard sugar-syrup ratio of water and sugar, you can cut the sugar back to 1 cup, or even 3/4 cup when preparing syrups for herbal libations. Herbalist Susan Belsinger prefers to use raw, organic sugar, but regular cane sugar will work just fine.
See VARIATIONS, below, for a range of herbs, flowers and spices that can be used to flavor this syrup. Make sure your garden ingredients are pesticide-free.
Make Ahead: Refrigerate in a container with a tightfitting lid for about 10 days, or freeze for 8 to 9 months.
Servings: 2 - 2.5 cups
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups raw organic sugar
- 8 to 10 herb sprigs or a large handful of leaves (about 1 ounce total; see VARIATIONS)
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the herb leaves, using a spoon to bruise them gently against the side of the pan.
Cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes, to steep and cool to room temperature.
Discard the solids, squeezing them into the pan to extract all of the herbal essence into the syrup. Transfer the syrup to a clean bottle or canning jar and label. Seal and refrigerate for about 10 days or freeze for 8 or 9 months.
When freezing the syrup, be sure to leave an inch of headspace in the container for expansion. When you need just a little syrup for a recipe, remove the jar from the freezer and place it in the sink in a bowl of warm water. When it thaws a bit, pour off what you need and replace it in the freezer.
VARIATIONS: Amounts of fresh herb leaves, flowers and seeds used will vary and depend upon the flavor of each individual herb. The list below is for sprigs about 4 or 5 inches long.
Anise hyssop: 6 to 8 sprigs with flowers, or a handful of flowers
Basil: 6 to 8 sprigs of anise, cinnamon, green or lemon basil; flowers are good
Bay: 10 to 12 leaves
Bergamot: 6 to 8 sprigs, or handful of flowers
Calendula: Petals only from 10 to 12 flowers
Chamomile: Large handful of flowers
Elderflower: 6 to 8 flower heads
Ginger root: 5 or 6 thin slices of peeled root
Lavender: 10 flower spikes or 1 tablespoon of flower petals
Lemon balm, lemon thyme or lemon verbena: 8 to 10 sprigs
Mint: 10 to 12 sprigs of orange mint, peppermint or spearmint
Rose: 1 generous cup of petals
Rosemary: 5 or 6 sprigs
Sage: 4 common sage sprigs; 6 fruit-scented or pineapple sage sprigs; flowers, too
Scented geraniums: 12 to 15 leaves, or handful of flowers
Sweet woodruff: 1 generous cup small sprigs and/or flowers
Tarragon: 6 to 8 sprigs
Vanilla: 1 bean, halved and split lengthwise
Violas: 1 generous packed cup violets, Johnny-jump-ups or pansy petals
Adapted from Susan Belsinger's "Not Just Desserts: Sweet Herbal Recipes" (Herbspirit, 2005).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.