Category: tea

That Earl, he really knows how to jam.

Well since Valentine’s Day is over, and we’ve got some time before the all the green starts (although if you go by Pinterest/blogs it’s already starting), that means some time to bake things that aren’t artificially colored. What fun is that, right? Well as much as I do love me some food coloring (and holy balls I really do), I have to say once in a while it is nice to bake something that’s just… whatever color it is. Something basic. Something simple. Something homey & warm & comforting.

Especially when, like last week, New York gets hit with over a foot of snow. Yes, we were spared the worst of it where I am, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

But I do love tea, and I love muffins, so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that I bake a muffin made with tea. I’m not a stranger to using tea in baked goods or jellies, specifically Earl Grey, so it’s not exactly something that’s foreign to me… nonetheless it’s always fun to try a new twist on an old theme. That’s why when I found a recipe for Earl Grey milk jam on Pinterest I had to make it to serve along with some Earl Grey muffins (which are not going to be posted here, because they need a little tweaking).

Side note: this is a short, lazy little post for a lazy little ol’ me. I haven’t been feeling very well lately, I think I’m in need of some more influenza granita. I’m sneezing like crazy!

The milk jam is a very curious thing. It’s like the consistency of dulce de leche, or Nutella, maybe just a bit thinner. It seems to be popular in Japan, although in France they apparently have some version of it as well. It’s excellent on these muffins, but it’s also equally good in tea or coffee. Basically, dulce de leche means “candy of milk” or “milk candy” or even “milk jam”, so it’s not surprising that in some places milk jam is indeed what we think of as a thick caramel sauce, or dulce de leche. But it can be flavored in other ways, not just made into a caramel-flavored substance.

I added more than 5 tablespoons of Earl Grey to mine, which might be why it’s darker.

I’m telling you, a spoonful of this version of it in Earl Grey tea not only sweetens the tea but amps up the Earl Grey flavor in a great way.

EARL GREY MILK JAM (from B for Bonnie)

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Earl Grey tea bag, steeped in 5 tablespoons very hot water

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, for 20-25 minutes (you’ll know when it’s ready- it’ll get thick). Remove from heat and stir 3-5 tablespoons Earl Grey tea into it.
  2. Stir for a few minutes to combine. Pour into clean jar, cool and store in the refrigerator.

If you prefer to not use condensed milk, there’s a version at B for Bonnie using heavy cream & milk instead. The jam can also be made with vanilla beans instead of Earl Grey tea for a vanilla milk jam. That would be amazing in coffee, tea, or even over ice cream. For further instructions on that, visit Our Adventures in Japan.

As a matter of fact, it would make an excellent cupcake or cookie filling as well.

Chai concentrating.

Pinterest has taken over everyone’s life lately. It seems as if everyone is either making something they found on Pinterest or talking about something they found on Pinterest. And I’m no different. My Pinterest page is filled with amazing things; some of which I’ve made, some of which I’ll never make, and most of which I just gush about. I even wrote about it at textdrivebys.com twice…

This chai concentrate from Tasty Yummies is one of the ones I’ve actually both pinned and made.

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November is doing it’s best to get fully settled in. It’s been very, very cold, and as a matter of fact in addition to hurricane Sandy hammering us last week, tomorrow we’re getting a Nor’easter! Gusty winds, heavy rains and even snow in some places. So it’s time for warm drinks & spicy flavors. Hot cider, hot chocolate, hot tea. One chilly Sunday I was browsing Pinterest, looking at things I had been pinning for something interesting to create, and I noticed this chai concentrate that I had pinned way back in August. As soon as I saw the stunning photo of it in a Mason jar (how could I turn away!?) I pinned it. I’m not a massive chai person, but I do enjoy it every now & then. And it’s worth it to me to try a homemade version because I really never buy it when I’m out. I usually prefer a coffee. So when I do have chai, it’s at home. And I love some pre-made brands, and some tea companies versions of it. But sometimes it’s just not the same.

The history of chai is quite a rich one, despite most people only knowing it from it’s existence in lattes at Starbucks.

Masala chai (literally “mixed-spice tea”) is a beverage from India made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs.

Plain chai

By itself, chai or cha is merely the generic word for “tea” in many European and Asian languages. The widespread form chai comes from Persian چای chay. Street vendors called “chai wallahs” (sometimes spelled “chaiwalas”) are a common sight, although coffee is a more popular beverage in some southern parts of India. Chai is also a popular item in restaurants known as Irani cafés or the genre of South Asian restaurants known as Chai Khanas or Ghahve Khane.

Spiced tea

For many English speakers, the term “chai” is synonymous with masala chai, as further described below. The redundant chai tea is sometimes used to indicate spiced milk tea as distinct from other types of tea. Numerous coffee houses use the term chai latte for their version to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal latte is being flavored with a spiced tea concentrate instead of with espresso, without necessarily implying the addition of coffee. Some coffeehouses and brand names refer to their product as chai tea latte.

The beverage is locally known as Chai karak in the Middle East.

And might I add… DELICIOUS. And this homemade concentrate is also easy. Cheap, too. But at the same time it’s quick- it takes no time at all, and it makes your house smell absolutely amazing. The smell alone is worth it! Just like the homemade pumpkin spice latte mix I posted about last month, if you’re a chai lover who buys a lot of chai lattes, this could totally save you some money.

HOMEMADE CHAI CONCENTRATE (adapted minimally from Tasty Yummies)

Yields: 1 batch of concentrate, approximately 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 8 bags black tea – I used PG tips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

  1. Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and put in the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat strain the concentrate through a sieve, separating the large pieces (tea begs/cinnamon sticks/cardamom pods/anise/cloves/etc) from the mix. At this point, add your vanilla extract & honey. Stir to combine.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into an airtight jar or container. This amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To use it, mix one part concentrate with one part milk or milk-like product of your choice. Heat the concentrate for a hot version, pour over ice for a cold version.

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I used ground cardamom & ground ginger, I had fresh ginger but it was frozen & I didn’t feel like defrosting it so I could cut it (it’s a pretty large hunk, and yes I freeze my extra ginger). I didn’t have any cardamom pods but I had a large jar of it ground, so I opted to substitute that. Also, the original recipe called for a whole vanilla bean, coconut sugar & raw honey- I only had regular sugar, brown sugar, a small amount of German rock sugar (for my tea) & sugar cubes myself, so I made an executive decision. If you want to use another kind of sugar, go right ahead, but you might want to read what she says her results were first. My honey wasn’t raw either, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference taste-wise. All of my vanilla beans were being made into homemade vanilla extract at the time, so I had to use some vanilla extract instead. If you like a spicier chai, add more peppercorns. If you like a sweeter chai, add more sugar. Likewise… if you prefer a less sweet chai then just use less sugar/honey. What you use in it is totally up to you. And as a matter of fact, this mix makes a nice hostess gift, too. Tie some raffia around the top with some cinnamon sticks & handwritten instructions, and you’re good to go. And if you know someone who was in the path of Hurricane Sandy who has no power but still has a gas stove to heat it up with, maybe bring them some, along with some food.

As for me? I’ll be drinking some later tonight watching the 2012 Presidential election returns. Make sure you registered U.S. voters get out there today & do your duty! It’s a privilege to be able to push that little lever or fill in that circle on paper, so get your lazy, apathetic asses out there. And to everyone who already voted; good for you. It’s not even 8 a.m. & you’ve already made more of a difference than most people will all day. And if you’re one of those people affected by Sandy, you can still vote. Download a mail-in ballot or call your local elected officials to find out where to go to vote in New Jersey, or if you’re in NY you can click here & find out where to go (and in turn pass it on!). I know you’re all dealing with so many other things, but voting is going to continue; no matter what election day will not be suspended. And it’s so important to get your vote in. So please, try and get as many folks as you can to the polls today.

And if you remain unaffected, if you’re safe, warm & dry today, and you know where you’ll be voting & that you’ll be coming home afterwards… then especially be thankful for that.

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Rose petal hibiscus tea jelly.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

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Is that not the prettiest jelly you’ve ever seen?

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It really is. And it’s not just because I took these photos with a magical new addition to my life, although yeah, this camera takes insane photos. It’s because this jelly really is the prettiest jelly ever.

I love tea. I always have. In an Irish family, tea is basically a staple… you can’t escape it. Yes, I love coffee too, but I definitely own more varieties of tea than coffee. Tea is comforting for me. Tea is childhood illness, when my grandmother would make me a cup when I was home sick from school & my mom was at work, holding her hand to my forehead to see if I was “hot.” Tea is when I had a bad day as a teenager, and my mom would make me a cup before bed & tell me the day is over and tomorrow is a new start. Tea is family. Coffee is a jolt to get me going, whereas tea is a warm hug to settle me down.

I made a super crazy good tea jelly last summer, and it was such a massive hit that all four jars disappeared. One I sent to Lyns, and the other three just seemingly vaporized. I know I used it for a few things, and I remember having it on scones and English muffins, but I definitely don’t remember all the jars being used up. Hmm. But nonetheless they were, and now they’re seemingly gone, so it was time to make some more. I really liked the tea I used last year, but I wanted something different this year. I was still in a summer mood at the time, and it was so hot out I didn’t want to make anything too heavy or wintery, and a lot of my loose teas remind me of fall & winter. I wanted to avoid that completely- I’m more than a little annoyed that the Back To School stuff has been in stores since before my birthday and that people are trying to sell me sweaters. It’s still summer, dammit! I’ve also been reading a lot of my vintage cookbooks, or rather my reprints of vintage cookbooks, such as The Virginia House-Wife, The American Frugal Housewife & Civil War Recipes; and for some reason they all made me think of things like rose or lavender-based jellies and jams. Flowery edible things always remind me of the Colonial times or Victorian times. Rosewater was often used back then in recipes in place of vanilla extract, which was very expensive. Although it’s still used widely today, especially in Indian & Middle Eastern cuisine, most people nowadays use it as part of their toilette. Rosewater is great for your skin- it absorbs excess oil so it makes a great toner.

So as a kind of experiment, I decided to make a small jar of jelly using some flower-based tea & rose petals.

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I decided to use the last four Hibiscus tea bags from Davidson’s that I had left to make some rose petal hibiscus tea jelly. Why add actual rose petals? ‘Cause I can, really.

ROSE PETAL HIBISCUS TEA JELLY

Makes about 1 8-oz. jar with some overflow

Ingredients:

  • 4 Davidson’s Tulsi Hibiscus tea bags
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Certo liquid pectin (or 1/3 cup apple pectin)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh strained lemon juice
  • 4-6 large unblemished rose petals (from roses not chemically treated)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize and keep warm two 8-oz. jars & one 4-oz. jar (for overflow, just in case). Place the lids in a bowl of hot water and set aside.
  2. In a bowl of water, delicately swirl the rose petals to remove any bugs or excess dirt. Remove gently and drain on paper towels. Add the tea bags to the 1 3/4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from the heat, add the rose petals, and let steep for 5-6 minutes. Drain and toss the tea bags & petals (unless you want to add the petals to the jars; they’ll float but you can still add them if you like).
  3. Add the pectin, lemon juice and sugar to the tea. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until it reaches 220° F on a candy thermometer, or passes the freezer plate test, about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Pour into prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and place lids & bands, turning only to fingertip tight.
  5. Process in a waterbath canner for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean tea towel and do not disturb for a day. Check seal. Use any that aren’t sealed immediately.

The tea is slightly rosy itself. But my rose petals were a red color, so the jelly was infused with a slightly more red color than the tea would normally have (and the petals then turned a pale pinkish color themselves, as if all their color was leeched out into the jelly). If you don’t want to use the petals, you don’t have to. It just gives a really subtle rosy flavor. A drop of rosewater in the tea before cooking would work too, but it wouldn’t be as subtle. If you’ve got hibiscus, then by all means- use hibiscus petals! Like I said, the petals float to the top, so when you open the jelly; you’ll see them at the surface. You can eat them, scrape them off and toss them, or save them.

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This is a jelly with a slightly looser set. It shakes & jiggles just like jelly is supposed to, and it holds it’s shape well, yet softly. I hate that store-bought jelly is so over-firm. I think jelly should be jiggly, like jello. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, that’s why I recommend in the recipe that you sterilize two 8-oz. jars and a 4-oz. jar. You’ll probably have a little overflow, but you might have more than just a little. ‘Cause see, depending on what kind of pot you use, what kind of oven you have, etc. you might end up with more than just one 8-oz. jar (or maybe a little less!)… so better to be safe, no? And besides, what’s the problem with ending up with more jelly? None as far as I can tell.

This isn’t really a jelly for the casual jelly-lover. It’s a very distinctive, unique flavor and it’s not for everyone. That said… if you love hibiscus tea, you’ll love this.

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And don’t worry- if your jelly doesn’t set, you can still use it! It’d be wonderful as a syrup added to iced tea, a vodka or gin cocktail, or sparkling water. Same goes for those petals you save. Plop them in some sparkling water or lemonade, too. It’s very Victorian. And if you love tea, yet you’ve never tried hibiscus flower tea, I suggest you try some. It’s delicious- especially Davidson’s.

Refreshment is only 8-10 hours away.

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And no, I don’t mean a trip to the Caribbean, although I’m sure that’s fantastic. I mean iced tea.

I’ve wanted to make sun-brewed iced tea for a while now. I did it a few times as a kid, but as a kid (and young adult) my taste in tea was pretty much either piping hot with a lot of sugar and milk when I had a cold or it was wintertime, or iced cold Snapple or AriZona iced tea right from 7-11′s refrigerator case in the summer. Homemade iced tea just didn’t do it for me. It was either too bland, not sweet enough, or didn’t taste right. Now that I’m an adult, with a (slightly) more discerning palate & a penchant for all things tea… I wanted to give it a shot again. While we’re on the subject, you know what annoys me? People who say “ice tea.” It’s not ICE tea, you moron, it’s iced tea.

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So anyway, I went on a mission to find out everything I could about making delicious sun tea. However, the internet will make you insane. Everywhere on the internet there were either blogs & websites encouraging you to make it, or ones telling you you’ll get sick and die if you make it. And I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere in the middle, probably closer to the former than the latter. Now, let me just say that I’m far from a hypochondriac. I don’t run to the doctor the minute my nose runs. I’m not even a germophobe. I don’t care about touching door handles or knobs or how many other hands have touched it. I don’t get skeeved that easily- that’s not to say nothing skeeves me, plenty of things do, but I’m not one of these people dousing everything in bleach all the time. I think honestly we’ve become so germ-phobic that we’re making ourselves sick. We’re killing our abilities to fight bacteria naturally by over-cleaning and over-sanitizing every damn thing & pumping our bodies full of antibiotics and medicines before our system even has a chance to do anything on it’s own. All of that said: I always follow proper canning procedures, and I always follow proper cleaning methods when cooking chicken, etc. I don’t take those things lightly. I don’t at all scoff at food safety, not in the least. It’s definitely important, particularly if you’re dealing with babies, young children, pregnant women or the elderly.

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But sun-tea? Really? You expect me to worry about brewing a jar of tea in the sun? Seriously?

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I had an experience a few years ago that I’d like to share, speaking of this topic. So sit down, squat down or lie down because it’s story time. You see, I used to be super into iced tea- see the first paragraph- and my absolute favorite, hands down, was Dairy Barn‘s own iced tea. Dairy Barn is a drive-thru convenience store- meaning you can go in your pajamas because you don’t have to get out of your car. Every summer they had amazing iced coffee, lemonade and iced tea. I was borderline obsessed. When I was much younger, they came in a waxed cardboard container just like milk, and had a drawing of tea leaves (or lemons, or coffee beans) and splashes on it, colored to indicate the contents. However they stopped making the iced coffee, and changed the iced tea & lemonade to big plastic jugs at some point, much to my chagrin. The taste remained the same, though, so I bought gallon after gallon. Until one summer when we had a wicked storm that knocked out power for a bit, maybe a day tops. I ventured out the next day after the power came back to get some iced tea, buying my usual gallon jug from Dairy Barn. I put in the fridge and when I went to drink some later it had a terrible taste. I looked at the jug and there was a white, cloudy stuff floating in the tea. I was immediately grossed out and took it back. They replaced it (obviously!) but that was the turning point for me. I gave up on iced tea for a long time after that. I totally lost my taste for it. I came back around to drinking iced tea a few years later when I tried Honest Tea & Gold Peak & they kick-started my taste for it again. I couldn’t deny my love any longer. But basically, my point is I came to find out years later that white stuff was bacteria that had probably began to grow once the refrigeration was off, or was perhaps growing long before that, when the jug was in a hot truck or warehouse. Or, if you believe a lot of people’s theories, the fact that the tea was now in relatively clear plastic jugs allowed the heat from the sun to grow bacteria in the sweetened tea at some point during it’s no doubt at least partially unrefrigerated journey to me. Gross, right?

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Yeah, whatever, it was gross. But you know what? That bacteria, apparently known as Alcaligenes viscolactis, is found in TAP WATER. And not just tap water, but also milk. Not tea, not plastic, not the sun and not glass jars. So the water was the culprit. And I drink water constantly, milk too, mostly without a thought, and sometimes… *gasp* …right from the tap! No filtration! And I’m still alive! You ingest more bacteria every day than you even realize. In food, on glasses & plates, in the air… And besides, that jug was one jug of iced tea out of the 6 gazillion bottles, cans, jugs and glasses of it I’ve had in my 31 years of life. I’ve been exposed to worse, surely. Okay, so the idea that this bacteria grows rapidly in the low-ish temperatures (around 130º F) sun-tea commonly reaches, and that the sugar might feed it, that could be disconcerting. I get that. And if you have a compromised immune system or a chronic illness,or if you’re pregnant, then maybe you shouldn’t chance it. But really… I had to ask myself, how many people have I heard of dying from sun tea? None. So I decided to throw caution to the wind and make myself some sun-brewed tea. This way I can utilize all this crazy sun/heat and get something good out of it! Besides, if sun-tea really killed people, half the South would’ve been dead as door nails years ago.

If you didn’t already notice, these pictures are the progression of the sun tea as it brewed during the day. To make the tea the way I did, follow this little tutorial:

SUN-BREWED TEA:

  1. Get two quart-sized Mason jars. Boil water and wash/sterilize the jars and lids thoroughly. Dry them and get your stuff ready.
  2. I did two different types of tea- Lipton Black Iced Tea bags and STASH Peach Black Tea bags. I put a different one in each jar, but of course you can use one jar of just one kind of tea if you like. Add between 1/4 cup & 1/2 cup sugar and 4 cups of water to each jar, then stir (If you’re very concerned about the bacteria, boil your water first- you can use it hot or let it cool, or use filtered water or bottled water; and if you’re super worried, add the sugar after it’s brewed). Add two tea bags to each jar: I set it up so the tags were hanging out from the lid/band and it was easier to remove them once the brewing is finished. For the plain black tea, I added a few lemon slices, but I added nothing to the peach tea.
  3. Let it sit in a place where it will get constant sun for 4-5 hours, preferably after 12 noon on a day when the temperature is well above 85-88º F. The day I made it, the temperature was roughly 96º F and you could’ve fried an egg on the sidewalk.
  4. When you bring the jars inside, remove the tea bags & put them in the fridge right away. Once it’s really cold, about 6-8 hours later, pour it into a glass with ice and enjoy!

(It’s recommended by the CDC that you toss the tea after 24 hours, and then thoroughly clean the jars or vessels with a bleach solution. Some people say they keep it until it turns cloudy and then toss it. I leave it up to you. All I’ll say is no matter what you do, when in doubt, throw it out! If it looks, smells or tastes funky… adios amigo.)

The best part? You can use a terrace, a fire escape, a deck, a front porch, front steps, etc. It can be made anywhere there’s strong sunlight. And if you prefer your tea with honey, I don’t see why you can’t use that instead of sugar. Or make it unsweetened. What-evs. Like I said above I used quart-sized jars, but if you’d rather make individual single serve jars, pint jars work too. Just lessen the amount of sugar and use one tea bag instead of two. Same goes for increasing the amount for a gallon jar: double the amount of sugar and use four tea bags. And you can experiment with the sugar amounts; I found 1/2 cup per quart was perfect. It might be too sweet (or not sweet enough!) for you. You can always add more once it’s brewed, but ya can’t take any out once it’s done. So its best to err on the side of the lesser amount unless you’re sure.

If you’re STILL worried, then by all means, make iced tea cold-brewed refrigerator way. It’s the same premise as sun tea, just.. well.. without the sun. Just for shits & giggles I tried a cold brew jar as well. I figured I could compare the taste. I think the cold brew tea actually had a better pure tea taste.

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It was very clear tasting; that’s really the only way I can describe it. As this website says:

The other method of preparation is cold brewing. With this method, the cold water draws out or pulls the flavor from the leaf as opposed to hot water, used in traditional brewing, which pushes the flavor from the leaf. Subsequently, cold infusion is a much slower, gentle method that results in a smooth, more subtle, naturally sweet tasting tea.

- Teas, Etc

They make specially made tea bags just for cold-brewing, Twinings makes a TON of them, but I used regular Lipton iced tea bags (just as I did for the sun tea). And it was such a success, I made a few more jars! The peach STASH tea made this way was divine.

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ERMAHGERDS. So refreshing.

Alright, so here’s how you do it.

COLD-BREWED (OR REFRIGERATOR) TEA:

  1. Thoroughly clean a quart Mason jar (& it’s lid) and let it dry.
  2. Again, like above, add 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar (or some honey, or Splenda, or Xylitol, etc… that is if you want to use any sweetener at all- which you don’t have to- but if you do now is the time to add it) and fill with water. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Add lemon slices, peach slices, mango slices, lime slices or any fruit, if desired. Otherwise just add two tea bags of whatever tea you’re using. Push them down in the water with the spoon until they’re saturated and place the lid on the jar & close it.
  4. Put the jar in the fridge for 8-10 hours. It’s ready to drink! If it isn’t strong enough, you can let it brew a little while longer.
  5. Toss the tea after three days and clean the jar again if you’re ready for another batch.

You still have to keep your eyes on it, even though it’s kept cold. They recommend that after three days you throw it out, even if it looks fine. Of course if it looks cloudy before then, you should toss it ASAP.

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While I thought that the cold brew tea had a superior tea flavor, the sun tea was much more fun to make, to be honest, just because of the whole “sun brewing” thing. If I had kids, they’d probably be far more interested in watching that brew than opening the fridge every five minutes. And if after all that, you’re still scared, then just make some homemade iced tea by brewing it the boiling water way. Ain’t no shame in it! As always, use your discretion. If it bothers you, don’t make it. If it excites you, then go brew up some tea. It’s really so much better than the store-bought kind, or even the instant powdered mix kind. This is the real thing. And it’s so freakin’ easy you’ll wonder why you never did it before (or stopped doing it). Give it a shot you’ll see.

Either way… enjoy the sun.

Tea for two.

Donsuemor & Davidson’s Tea asked me a few months ago to take part in their blogger tea party, so of course I accepted! I love tea. And I love Donsuemor. And that means that this post is all about my little tea party featuring Davidson’s delicious teas and Donsuemor’s delicious madeleines.

I might have mentioned a few times on this blog how big of a role tea has played in my life. My grandmother was a big tea drinker. If you mention the word “tea” to anyone who knew her, they’d say “Aggie!” Ever since she passed away last July, I’ve especially missed that. Her world renowned crazy tea & cookie obsession! If my nana didn’t have her tea & cookies… someone was going to pay. As long as she had a warm cup of tea & some kind of cookie, all was right with the world. Like that image says above- a cup of tea solves everything. And so on that note, for the tea party I decided to use my grandmother’s vintage fine china tea set (& musical teapot). It’s Yamaka China, made in occupied Japan. It’s trimmed in 14K gold & it is beautiful. It must be a rare pattern too, because after looking up Yamaka tea/snack/luncheon sets, I haven’t found it anywhere. The teapot isn’t Yamaka, I’m actually not sure what it is, but it plays ‘Tea For Two’ when you pick it up to pour it. They were both bought sometime after she got married in 1940. My grandma was scrupulous about keeping things perfect, so the set is in mint condition. Looks like it just came out of the box.

And yes, the teapot still plays.

I also used her vintage lace tablecloth, which I never even knew she had. I also hadn’t really ever looked at her china before, but when I decided to use it I really noticed how stunning it is. And I love the fact that the plates have a special little sunken-in area off to the side of the plate for the tea cups to sit in! Brilliant! Plenty of room on the plates for those madeleines. I went & bought some pretty flowers (that matched the tea set) and put them in another flowered tea pot for decoration. I’m not 100% sure what kind of flowers they are, but they’re gorgeous. I put out my jadeite bunny sugar bowl and I put out my grandma’s crystal salt & pepper shakers, just ’cause they’re pretty to look at. Then I got out some good silver teaspoons. All that …and I was ready for a party! A tea party, of course.

Thanks to Anna who pointed out the heart shape in the tea bag!

Donsuemor sent four types of their madeleines: chocolate, chocolate dipped, lemon zest and original. Perfect for a tea party. And of course Davidson’s Tea sent three amazing teas: Bing Cherry with Almond, Tulsi Hibiscus Flower and Vanilla Cream Spice. All of the teas are organic & these happen to all be caffeine free. And did I mention delicious?

I love the Vanilla Cream Spice tea. It’s very, very delicious. It was my favorite, although honestly I haven’t tried the Bing Cherry yet. The Hibiscus tea would be amazing iced! I think this weekend, since the weather will be warm again, I’ll make a big pitcher of hibiscus iced tea with some German rock sugar. And while I don’t think I could pick a favorite madeleine; if I did it’d be a tie between the chocolate-dipped and lemon zest. I can honestly say they’re all amazing, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. But I’m a tea lover, and I’m a French cookie (& pastry) lover too, so I guess I’m not the best judge. Or maybe I am a good judge for that reason!

And coincidentally, it may seem as though I color-coordinated everything to match the tea packets, but I didn’t! Haha. I swear. I was planning on using the jadeite bowl and her pink-patterned tea set before I even realized the tea packets matched everything perfectly. But yeah, that’s just the way I do things, you know. I like to be 100% coordinated. *wink*

All in all, it was a sweet little tea party on a beautiful end-of-April afternoon. Even Arwyn requested some tea. I think she liked the Hibiscus flower one.

Aren’t the flowers lovely, too? Thank you so very much to Donsuemor & Davidson’s Tea for helping me host such a beautiful tea party. Not only that, thank you for helping me rediscover something beautiful of my grandmother’s that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to. I had a wonderful time. I’m just sorry my tea-loving nana wasn’t here to enjoy it with us. But I guess she kind of was.

You can find Donsuemor on the web, on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can also find Davidson’s Tea on Twitter & Facebook, too! So go become a fan, become a follower & buy some of their treats.

Preserving: traditions… and some fruits, nuts & tea.

I’ve heard a lot recently about keeping traditions alive, especially after someone has passed away. For me it’s important. Vital, even. And that’s been something that has always been important in my family. The year my great-grandfather Tom died in late November (my grandmother’s father), her & my grandpa put up a Christmas tree. A smaller one, but still. The year her mother Mary passed away right before Halloween, her brother still passed out candy at the house because it was his mother’s favorite holiday. To not do these things would feel wrong to us. However, everyone grieves differently. For us it’s important to continue with the things those people loved to do… we’d feel sadder & lonelier without them. To each his own. But for me, that’s how our ancestors & family members are kept alive. Making their recipes, using their decorations, etc. Doing the things they used to do & love. Preserving the traditions. My grandma loved Christmas, to not celebrate it would be wrong.

Speaking of preserving…. in the last few days before Christmas, I thought I’d throw in three more ideas for seasonally appropriate jams/conserves/jellies. Perfect for gift-giving, as additions to the Christmas dinner/after-dinner spread, or for a Christmas Day brunch. All three are different, yet totally Christmas-y. And in case you’re wondering…

Conserves are made with dried fruits and nuts and are cooked. They have a very thick and chunky texture. Conserves work very well as a spread and as a condiment for meats and cheeses.

Jam is a thick mixture of fruit, pectin, and sugar that is boiled gently but quickly until the fruit is soft and has an organic shape, yet is still thick enough that it spreads easily and can form a blob. In addition to being a spread, jams are also good for fillings.

Jelly is made from sugar, pectin, acid, and fruit juice and is a clear spread that is firm enough to hold its shape. Jellies can also be made from ingredients other than fruit, such as herbs, tea, wine, liqueurs, flowers, and vegetables.

- source: TheKitchn

Does that clear up the confusion? So anyway, like I said, three recipes. Yes. I said THREE. Three whole recipes today. I must be crazy, right? Three recipes for three different types of jarred up, old timey, homestyle holiday fare. I guess you could say this post is a trifecta of awesomeness. Or a triple threat. Whatever it is- it rocks.

Those are regular size cupcake liners used as lid covers!

First up is the conserve; made with dried figs, dried plums & walnuts. The recipe was sent to me by my friend Chrisie who found it in an old cookbook of her grandma’s. I used whole dried Black Mission figs & Plum Amazins’ diced dried plums myself- the original recipe calls for two types of dried figs. I had the plums & figured why the hell not. My mother is a big fig person, so these were made specifically as a gift for her. I’m giving you the original recipe in it’s entirety, with any modifications I did in parentheses.

FIG (& PLUM) & WALNUT CONSERVE

Makes roughly 8 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dried black figs
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup packed dried California figs, or any medium light brown figs (I substituted Plum Amazin dried plums)
  • 1 medium orange, both the juice & the fruit (I used just the juice from a small orange, since I used slightly more figs than called for, I didn’t think I needed extra pulp or fruit)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar (I used half light brown, half dark brown)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup white wine (I omitted this)
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, chopped (I didn’t toast them, I just tossed them in and let them cook with the fruit)
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage (I used cardamom instead, only ½ teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Snip the stems off the figlets and place in a large bowl along with the boiling water for 30 minutes. Slice the California figs in half (if using the Plum Amazin’s there’s no need to do that, they’re already diced) and place in a large pan along with the figlets and fig water.
  2. Cut the orange in half; juice half and dice the remaining half, including rind, into small pieces. Add the orange juice to the pan. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except the walnuts and sage (or, like I used, cardamom). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the walnuts and sage and cook for an additional 10 minutes (I let it cook down longer, so it was a much thicker consistency). Spoon the fig and walnuts into clean, hot jars, pressing down.
  3. Ladle the juice over the fruit, leaving ½”-inch headroom. Wipe the rims clean and seal. Invert the jars for 10 minutes. Restore to an upright position and cool. Check the seals, label and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Since it’s an old recipe, and it relies on the inversion method, you might want to add in about 15 minutes processing time in a water bath canner. Unless you’re not anal about these things. I know the USDA would say otherwise, but this recipe is old & I doubt anyone died from it. Still & all I’d hate to be responsible for anyone croaking from preserves.

And next… the big ol’ boozehound of the crew: vanilla-brandy chestnut jam. This smelled so good cooking on the stove, it took everything in my power to not eat it. Seriously. As it was cooking, I wanted to just eat it right out of the pot. Then once the brandy was added… well, forget it. It seems like this is a pretty insane jam. Very rich, very dessert-like.

VANILLA-BRANDY CHESTNUT JAM

Makes about 8 pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¾ lbs. peeled chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brandy (depending on taste)

Directions:

  1. Put peeled chestnuts and vanilla bean (or extract) in large sauce pan and just cover with water. Cover pan and bring to a boil; simmer until chestnuts are tender (about 30 min.). Remove and set aside vanilla bean. Drain chestnuts, reserving cooking liquid.
  2. Put chestnuts, sugar, and about 5 tablespoons cooking liquid in heavy pan. Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add seeds and bean to pan. Heat mixture gently, stirring & gently “smooshing” the chestnuts (don’t worry if they remain in little chunks), until sugar is dissolved, then raise heat and boil until mixture is thick. Remove and discard vanilla bean (if used); stir in brandy.
  3. Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, seal, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

If you prefer a smoother jam, without chunks, then purée the chestnuts before step 2. I like jams to have chunks of fruit (in this case nuts) in ‘em, so I left the pieces of chestnut. And I’ll be honest here & say I bought pre-peeled chestnuts. I could not sit there & do that until my fingers bled… that’s dedication. I just like to reap the benefits. Plus, I scaled it back to make just 4 4-oz. jars, so for that small amount of chestnuts it’s kinda silly to go through all that. But certainly do as you wish.

And finally… last but not least… Gingerbread spice jelly! Made from TEA. Who’da thunk it? This is a fantastic idea, one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” type of deals. As soon as I saw this in Taste of Home magazine, I ripped it out & circled it.

GINGERBREAD SPICE JELLY (courtesy of Robin Nagel from Taste of Home magazine, December 2011)

Makes 5 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 18 individual gingerbread spice tea bags (I used Celestial Seasonings’ Gingerbread Spice tea because it’s the only one I know of!)
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 pouches (3 oz. each) liquid fruit pectin

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from the heat; add tea bags. Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Discard tea bags. Stir in the sugar, apple juice and butter. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat; skim off foam. Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot jars, leaving ¼”-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner (adjust that for your altitude). Let cool on a tea towel for 12 hours. Check seal. (Recipe author says jelly may take up to 2 weeks to fully set- mine set as soon as it cooled)

Since these are all wrapped up & ready to be given as gifts, I can’t tell you how any of them taste yet. But I’m sure they’re both amazing. From what I saw & smelled, I think the fig conserves would be excellent on a cracker with a piece of cheese (maybe even on a sour cream pound cake), and the chestnut jam would probably be awesome with a piece of pound cake or over vanilla ice cream. Now the jelly… hmm… I’d say on warm toast with a cup of tea. But I also kinda wanna say that it’d be great in thumbprint cookies.

Speaking of wrapped up- if you want to do this with your preserves as an easy way of jazzing ‘em up, wait until after the 12-24 hours are up and you’re sure they’re cooled & sealed. Then just unscrew the band, place a cupcake liner on the top & screw the band back on. Totally simple! And after seeing all the amazing entries in Well Preserved‘s Pimp That Preserve contest, you might have been inspired to start pimpin’ your jars… but you just didn’t know where to start! Well this is an easy way. Then you can just tie a ribbon on it, put a label on & you’re done. Although I happen to think the homemade labels & little penguin stickers on my Gingerbread jelly are mighty cute, too (they’re from the scrapbooking section of Michael’s). Be creative. Take it from a 2011 Pimp That Preserve winner *wink* The best thing about giving jars of treats like these as gifts is that unlike cake, cupcakes, cookies or bread, there’s no expiration date. Well there is, but it’s so far in the future no one has to feel the need to eat it all in one week!

Maybe Santa would like a jar of one of these instead of the usual cookies this year?

Would you like some scones & tea? Some jelly? Some tea-jelly?

Now that Halloween is over, it seems like its a landslide right through the holidays. Although before the mad rush of December starts, & before the long cold winter sets in (blah), it’s nice to take advantage of the down time, lazy weekends & of course, the beautiful fall weather. It finally got here! We had to battle 80° degree days, tons of rain & even snow right before Halloween, then 35° degree nights for a while there… but finally we got a bit of fall-ish weather. Cooler, but actually more on the cold side. Drier. Gorgeous changing leaves finally. Nice weather for a heavy sweater & apple cider or tea around the fire pit at night. It’s no secret I like my tea. All kinds, from regular old Lipton, to fancier ones like Stash’s Earl Grey Black or Licorice Spice, to classic ones like Twining’s Irish Breakfast, to healthy ones like Yogi Egyptian Licorice to even fancier ones like, oh, say anything from Teavana. Ahh, Teavana.

Teavana teas are the best. I am in love with them. My personal favorites (for drinking) are Cacao Mint Black, Samurai Chai Mate/White Ayurvedic Chai blend and JavaVana Mate. However I haven’t found one yet that I’m not into. My mother has a ton of them that her friend Mara (hi, Mara!) sent her in a ‘Tea Lovers’ gift set, so that’s where I go when I want to try a new flavor. Or when I want to experiment. Like, for example, what I wanted to do when I got this particular book.

A few months ago, I ordered a book that I had been sorta lusting over for a while. It’s called Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff/photographs by Rinne Allen. It arrived on a warm (okay- muggy, hot & slightly stifling), beautiful August day during which I had been out gardening, so I only briefly flipped through it at first. After cleaning up, coming inside & showering, I settled in with a can of ice cold Coke Zero & pored over every page. What a freakin’ gorgeous book! Filled with amazing recipes (not just canning but baking too!) and glorious photos. If you don’t have it, buy it. You won’t regret it.

One of the recipes in this book was a recipe for tea jelly. Just jelly made with tea. Well, tea, sugar, pectin and lemon juice. Sort of like an iced tea jelly, or a sweet tea jelly. I knew I had to make it. So I did. And the tea I used was Teavana’s Frutto Bianco Pearls white tea, which is described as:

Tropical fruits effortlessly complement hand-rolled, delicate white tea pearls. A blend of kiwi, coconut and candied tropical fruit bits tempt you to pull up a hammock and sip your cares away! Ingredients: white tea, apples, rose hips, lemongrass, citrus pieces, kiwi bits, coconut chips, lemon myrtle, candied pineapple & papaya.

-From Teavana.com

I know, it sounds to die for. It is. And I thought it’d make a fantastic jelly.

The tea in the canister.

It did indeed make a beautiful looking jelly…

I have to say, I love all the recipes for tea-infused jellies & jams (as if you couldn’t tell?). It’s such an easy way to really make an average every day item stand out. It turns an ordinary preserve into something different, something that people can’t quite put their finger on. My family has a big history with tea; being Irish, my Nana Agnes’ side of the family drank tea like it was going out of style..I was raised on it, although coffee was a big part of life too, tea seemed to be the main component. It was always around.. black teas, green teas, herbal teas, sweetened with milk & sugar or just honey. When I was sick as a kid, my mom or nana would make me a big mug of tea with milk & sugar, and even now whenever I’m not feeling my best, I find that it’s a great cure. Tea is a huge part of my childhood memories. Now that I’m older, & my tastes have matured slightly, I like fancier stuff; but I always have a soft spot for a hot cup of black tea or English breakfast tea with milk & sugar.

So I made the jelly, labeled it, and put it aside. I sent a jar to Lyns (upon her request & also as payment for all the chutney’s she sent!) and promptly shoved my jars to the back of the line. Then recently, one Sunday morning, I was looking for another jam and found it! And I thought, “I need to make something special to serve this with.” So I took out a jar and I made some scones from the book, Regan’s Oat Scones, just specifically to have with this delicious jelly, for a brunch/lunch kinda thing.

Speaking of, you can use any tea you like, even herbal tea if you can’t tolerate caffeine, to make this jelly. Liana says she’s had excellent results with Oolong & Earl Grey, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use pretty much any kind of tea there is. Even pre-measured tea bags (although you’d typically need about 3 teabags to each tablespoon loose tea required). Trader Joe’s makes a white pomegranate tea that’d probably give lovely results, & my mother drinks a spicy vanilla chai by Bigelow that would also make a great jelly. Peppermint teas, citrus teas, musky teas. EXPERIMENT! Use a wintery blend for winter, a spring-y one for warmer weather… it’d be such a fun way to try new teas in a different way.

TEA JELLY (adapted from Liana Krisstoff’s book, Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Makes 3 half-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons loose tea leaves
  • 2 ¼ cups boiling water
  • ¼ cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ¼ cups sugar
  • 3 cups of Green Apple Pectin stock (see recipe below) or what I did- 1 package Certo liquid pectin

Directions:

  1. Prepare for water bath canning: Sterilize the jars and keep them hot (in water) in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Put the tea leaves in a heatproof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes*, then pour through a sieve into a 6-to 8-quart saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin/pectin stock, lemon juice and sugar into the tea. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers about 220° F on a candy thermometer or a small dab of it passes the freezer test (place some on the frozen plate and put back in the freezer for one minute, then remove; if the mixture wrinkles when you nudge it, it’s ready), about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a clean, folded dish towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
  5. Ladle the hot jelly into the jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid & band on each jar, adjusting the band so it’s fingertip tight.
  6. Return the jars to the canning pot in a canning rack, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove the jars to the folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours, except to check the seal after one hour by pressing down on the center of each lid; if it can be pushed down it hasn’t sealed, and must be refrigerated immediately. After 12 hours, label sealed jars & store.

Instead of printing labels, I just tied some of the labels that come with the book (YES! Labels come with the book! SO CUTE!) on with some twine.

How cute are they? Very. How awful is my handwriting? Very.

The deliciously special item I chose to make to eat it with was a scone. Not just any scone- but one made with oats, yogurt and honey (or maple syrup, but I used honey). Add the tea-infused jelly as a topping and it’s a free train ride to dreamy-town. I love scones anyway, but these are totally different than any other scones I’ve made. And with the jelly; seriously just forget it. No words. I halved this recipe because 5 eggs was a bit ridiculous at the time, although I wish I hadn’t! You can never have too many scones… especially these beautiful scones right here.

REGAN’S OAT SCONES (from Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats, plus extra for sprinkling (if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 5 large eggs
  • turbinado sugar (optional, for sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, two knives held together, or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey or maple syrup, and 4 of the eggs. Pour the mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated; do not overmix.. The dough will be somewhat sticky.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands, then pat the dough out to ¾” to 1″ inch thick. Cut into 2 ½” inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheets. Gather up leftover dough, handling it as little as possible, and pat it out to cut more rounds. If the kitchen is warm, put the baking sheets in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up, so they don’t spread too much in the oven.
  5. In a small bowl whisk the remaining egg together with 2 teaspoons cold water and brush the tops of the scones with it. Sprinkle with oats or turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and switching the pans halfway through, until deep golden brown. Remove to wire racks.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably split & spread with jam or jelly.

I got about 19 scones using the above recipe halved & using my 3-inch biscuit cutter to make them. You may think that’s plenty, but not when there are a ton of grabby hands around asking for baked goods all the time! I also used oats & gold crystal sugar (instead of turbinado) on top. They were so amazing, I could barely stop eating them. Thankfully, they’re (slightly) healthier than most scones. Sweet, but not too sweet. They’d work beautifully alongside a savory jelly too, I bet. Like a pepper jelly that’s on the sweeter side?

As I mentioned above in the tea jelly recipe, the author Liana prefers to use a homemade pectin stock for her jellies & jams. I am not so particular, but I’ll include the directions for doing so here just in case you’re far more ambitious than I. I’m lazy, remember? But now is a great time to do this because of the crazy amount of apples available. It’s apple season, after all. Make some & stock up on it if you’re not a lazy bitch. Like me.

GREEN APPLE PECTIN STOCK (also from Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds Granny Smith apples

Directions:

  1. Cut the apples into eighths, removing the stems, and put the apples- peels, cores, seeds & all- in a 6-to 8-quart saucepan. Add 6 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely broken down and the peels have separated from the pulp, 30-40 minutes.
  2. Set a very large, very fine mesh sieve (or jelly bag) over a deep bowl or pot. Pour the apples and their juice into the sieve and let drain for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally but not pressing down too hard on the solids; discard the solids. You should have about 5 ½ cups juice.
  3. Rinse the saucepan and pour in the apple juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the juice is reduced to about 3 cups (pour into a large heatproof measuring cup to check it), about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a clean container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for several months.

Lyns had tried the jar I sent her long before I remembered mine, and she said it was amazing- I have to agree. This tea made a spectacular jelly! It also just goes to show you that you don’t have to make the pectin stock to get a delicious jelly. Of course, I’m sure it feels slightly more rewarding if you do. But lazy bitches unite- we don’t need no stinking apple stock. We have modern convenience at our fingertips.

..

And the scones, they are phenomenal. Together, they’d be a great pair on Thanksgiving morning for breakfast. They have a sweet/not sweet borderline flavor that makes them more biscuit-y & perfect for accompanying a hearty bacon & eggs breakfast too. Also would be excellent on a cold winter’s night, right before bed. I had mine warm, and I definitely think they’re best eaten that way. Warm yours up if you’re eating them the next day, etc, or even toast them.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it’s almost that time! With each post, as I did for Halloween, I’m going to post a vintage or retro postcard, just because I like ‘em.

The Lady Grey’s lemon marmalade, super small-batch style.

You may remember when I posted about Earl Grey’s nectarine preserves way back when (a.k.a. two weeks ago, haha). Well, I’d been thinking of those preserves, the reception they received when opened, and how good they smelled while cooking. I had also been itching to make something new involving tea. So inspired by all that, this time I made a femme version for the Earl’s (I’m sure) lovely wife; Lady Grey’s lemon marmalade. So named after the tea used to make it, Lady Grey by Twinings.

Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby Grey, a.k.a. Lady Grey

Lady Grey tea is a delicate, fragrant variation on the more famous Earl Grey blend, sold by Twinings. It consists of black tea scented with oil of bergamot, lemon peel and orange peel.

Lady Grey tea was named after Mary Elizabeth Grey, the wife of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, for whom Earl Grey tea is named. Mary Elizabeth was the only daughter of William Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly.

‘Lady Grey’ is also a registered trademark of Twinings. The Twinings blend contains black teas, Seville orange, lemon, bergamot, and cornflower.

The tea is very similar to Earl Grey, except with more of a citrus-y punch because of the lemon & orange peel additions. I personally require a little more sugar in Lady Grey than in Earl Grey. But I figured it’d make a terrific compliment to a lemon marmalade because of that very reason. Lemon marmalade, is, by it’s very nature, bitter.

I have no use for large batches of things. I make things in little increments, usually give them away, and then get back empty jars (and more requests). So whenever I see a recipe that makes 8-12 pint jars full of wonderment, I groan a little bit inside. I mean, 12 jars!? Unless you’re seriously putting up for the winter, or you live in a place with a huge root cellar/pantry/storage area, how in the hell can you make (and store) 12 jars of everything? Maybe that’s just the New York in me talking. Even us New York suburbanites have a space-issue- we want all the space to be ours but yet always feel we don’t have enough. Like for instance my neighbors & their wacky ideas on property lines. But I digress. When I make my own recipes, I start small. First off, I’m not sure how it’ll turn out, so why waste good product & time on it. Second, like I said, I don’t have unlimited space for my jam experiments. Even though most of my creations are passed on to family/friends, I still couldn’t possibly house a dozen each of every idea I’ve had. So when this little idea came to me, I knew I’d have to make a small batch of it, and lucky for me I had these cute little quilted jelly jars. Cue the “awww” sound…

I was also inspired by this little still life; comprised of my grandmother’s vintage jadeite bowl filled with lemons, and her vintage Pyrex measuring cup.

Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits, boiled with sugar and water. The benchmark citrus fruit for marmalade production in Britain is the “Seville orange” from Spain, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, thus called because it was originally only grown in Seville in Spain; it is higher in pectin than sweet oranges, and therefore gives a good set. The peel has a distinctive bitter taste which it imparts to the marmalade. Marmalade can be made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins and sweet oranges or any combinations thereof. For example, California-style marmalade is made from the peel of sweet oranges and consequently lacks the bitter taste of Seville orange marmalade.

In languages other than English, “marmalade” can mean preserves made with fruit other than citrus. For example, in Spanish the term usually refers to what in English is called jam (and “jalea” is similar to the English jelly). In Portuguese “marmelada” applies chiefly to quince marmalade (from “marmelo”, quince).[1][2] In Italian too, marmellata means every jam and marmalade.

Marmalade recipes include sliced or chopped fruit peel simmered in sugar, fruit juice and water until soft. Marmalade is sometimes described as jam containing fruit peel but manufacturers also produce peel-free marmalade. Marmalade is often eaten on toast for breakfast.

Pre-processing…

The set on this marmalade is amazing. As soon as I took it off the heat, it started to “wrinkle” when stirred. However, I did use really large-sized lemons that had a lot of thick white pith. But really, in general, marmalade is very easy to make, especially with lemons, because of the super crazy high pectin content. No extra pectin is needed at all, and it comes together really quick. And the smaller the batch, the quicker it does. So this small-batch recipe is done really really fast. Although it can also be doubled, tripled or quadrupled with excellent results… just remember to factor that into your blanching/cooking/boiling/etc time. Each time frame I give in this recipe will have to be extended as per the amount of marmalade you’re making. People seem to have a hard time with marmalade’s, I don’t know why. There are tons of websites & forums that talk about how it can take up to three weeks to set, etc, etc. Didn’t have a problem myself, & I’m really new to all of this. Who knows!? Maybe it’s like the mystery of where your socks disappear to in the dryer; totally unexplainable.

Also, clearly, one of my tea bags had a little hole in it. Heh. Tiny little bitty tea leaves snuck out into my marmalade. Oh well, no biggie. If that bothers you, check them first or strain your tea before mixing it with the rinds & pulp.

LADY GREY’S LEMON MARMALADE

Makes one 16-ounce (1 pint) or two 8-ounce (half-pint) jars

Ingredients:

  • 3 large lemons
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Lady Grey tea bags

Directions:

  1. Pour the water into a small saucepan. Place the tea bags in and boil. After it boils, wiggle the tea bags around to get the tea flowing, the water should get darker. Allow it to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the ends off the lemons, scoop out the pulp, and remove the seeds, careful not to lose all the juice (do it over a bowl). Place the seeds (or pips) in a small pouch of cheesecloth or a muslin bag and set aside. Slice the lemon rind into thin strips, removing large chunks of pith but not removing it all (unless you like a sweeter & less “set” marmalade).
  3. Place the lemon juice, the pulp and the rind into a medium saucepan, along with the bag of pips. Pour the cooled tea over all the lemon and squeeze the tea bags gently over the lemon mixture to get any remaining tea out. Throw away the used bags.
  4. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-20 minutes. Then heat to medium-high and simmer until the rind is soft (mine took around a half hour). Once it’s soft, remove the bag of pips and add sugar, stirring and cooking until it’s dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, heat to a boil and then reduce just so the mixure gently simmers. Boil this way, uncovered & stirring frequently, until a candy thermometer says the mixture has reached the magical 220° degrees (anywhere from 20-25 minutes, perhaps even less). Once it’s reached that point, boil for one full minute. Check for set.
  5. While that’s going on, sterilize your jars and place lids in a bowl of hot water to soften sealant. If set, remove from heat. Ladle into jars, leaving ¼” headspace, wipe rims, and place lids/bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove & cool. Should be eaten within 12 months of making.

So easy. SO EASY. I used some of it in another capacity (which you’ll read about soon!) and it’s deliciousness translated so well. Excellent on toast, a scone, or even just bread or a roll. Also excellent spread on a warm slice of pound cake, served with a cup of tea. Cheerio!

Earl Grey’s nectarine tea preserves.

Lately, well for the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been canning & jarring everything in sight. I even tried to jar up Jay & Indy but they resisted. I’m kidding, ASPCA. But it just so happens today is Ball® National Can-It-Forward Day, so I’m right in style. And you should be too…

I happened upon an interesting recipe in the August 2011 issue of Bon Appétit. There was an article all about canning & preserving, and there was a recipe called ‘Lord Grey’s Peach Preserves.’ It immediately caught my eye as it was preserves steeped with tea. Earl Grey tea, to be specific. Earl Grey tea is a delicious tea, traditionally black, with a flavor and aroma that comes from oil of bergamot, extracted from the bergamot orange, a citrus fruit which is quite fragrant and looks more like a lemon/lime than an orange.

Painting attributed to Thomas Phillips, circa 1820

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845), known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the primary architects of the Reform Act 1832. In addition to his political achievements, Earl Grey famously gives his name to an aromatic blend of tea.[1]

- Wikipedia

I love tea. It’s a trait that’s inherited from my grandmother’s side- those crazy Irish & their tea! I miss her so much. And I even miss her tea obsession. She drank it in a big coffee cup I bought her from Anthropologie that had a big A on it. She drank her tea morning, noon & night. We made her stop drinking it after a certain hour (or tried to) because we were afraid the caffeine wasn’t good for her. But she insisted, and she continued drinking tons & tons of tea. I swear, she would’ve dove headfirst into the harbor if she had been around for the Boston Tea Party! My aunt loves tea too (I bet you could have already guessed that I gave a jar of this to her). My mother is more of a coffee person, but even so she loves her tea. I love coffee too, but I love all kinds of tea, & I go nuts in Teavana. It just so happens, though, that I’m a big fan of Earl Grey tea. I have a really good one that I love, it’s by Stash teas. It’s not expensive but it’s excellent quality. So I decided right then & there, as soon as I read the article, that I’d make this recipe. I didn’t have a lot of peaches, but I had a lot of nectarines, so I decided to just use them instead. Because of that, I’m just going to go with calling this version ‘Earl Grey’s Nectarine Tea Preserves.’

Nana reading something very important, 1937, Crugers Park, NY

It sucks hardcore my Nana isn’t here to try this. She’d go crazy over it, as she did everything I made. But preserves made with TEA!? Oh please. She’d be so excited. Last year for her 92nd birthday I made her Earl Grey tea with lemon frosted cupcakes, and she thought those were the best things ever. She loved to look at all the jars of stuff I made, and say “I don’t know whether to stare at them or eat them.” I hate that she’s gone. Yes, she was 93 years old. Yes, she had a good, long life. But there’s never, EVER a good age to lose someone… and you’re NEVER prepared for it, especially when they’re in excellent health & it’s unexpected. I miss her terribly, especially when I think of anything that has to do with tea. *insert long, wistful sigh here* I’m sorry if anyone is tired of hearing about this. But this blog is slowly morphing into a “more than just baking/cooking blog”, I chronicle my life here in a way, and this is how I’m feeling. So like it or lump it. Writing about it helps & I’ve never been one to shy away from writing about anything just because someone may not like it.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that for almost 3 weeks, this has been ALL that I had been doing- mourning, jarring, mourning, canning, crying, jarring and canning some more. It was so goddamn hot out I couldn’t bake… doing this was my only saving grace. Although I suppose there’s worse things I could be doing with my grief than making pickles & Earl Grey jams. And I am starting to see the light at the end of the grief tunnel. For sure. There are some rough patches but I can feel my heart getting a bit lighter, & I find myself smiling at her memory more than crying. This is a good thing.


And so are these preserves. The smell of it cooking was amazing. Between the tea scent & the nectarine scent, it was heavenly. And comforting. The tea makes the preserves have a darker, sort of caramelized look, which is so pretty. If you aren’t a fan of the tea leaves in the actual jam itself, just skip that step. Your tea flavor might not be as intense, but it should still have an aroma and taste of Earl Grey. Another option is to make canned sliced peaches or nectarines in an Earl Grey-infused syrup. Lady Grey tea would also work very well in this.

And yes, you could use a lemon-y herbal tea as well, I’m sure, for those of you who are anti-caffeine or can’t tolerate it.


EARL GREY’S NECTARINE TEA PRESERVES (adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2011)

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. ripe nectarines
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Earl Grey teabags, divided
  • powdered pectin (optional, see note below*)

Directions:

  1. Cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each nectarine. Working in batches, blanch them in a large pot of boiling water until skin loosens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Peel, halve & pit. Cut into ⅓” slices. Combine with sugar & juice in large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a small appetizer or dessert plate in the freezer. Transfer fruit mixture & 4 tea bags to a large heavy pot. Open the remaining tea bag; crumble leaves slightly, add to pot. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook 15-20 minutes.
  3. Test doneness by scooping a small spoonful onto frozen plate and tilting it. Mixture is ready if it does not run.
  4. Remove teabags. Skim foam from surface of jam. Ladle into sterilized, HOT jars. Wipe rims, seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember- start timing when the water is at a rolling boil).

This recipe makes roughly 2 pints. I made four 8 oz. (half-pint) jars instead of two 16 oz. (pint) because I think the smaller ones are better for preserves, jellies & jams. I find that people you give them to always open the large jars, eat from them (maybe even a few times), then put them in the fridge & they get shoved to the back & forgotten, like most jams or jellies people buy. Did you ever notice how long most people have jars of jelly? It’s kinda crazy. Anyway, this way, if that happens, you aren’t wasting the majority of your hard work. My fourth jar was a little skimpier than the rest, so I guess I didn’t quite have 5 lb. or my nectarines were on the smaller side. About 3-4 medium sized peaches/nectarines equal a pound.

As preserves & jams go, this is relatively easy. *You might not need to add pectin to this. But if it’s not coming together, to avoid losing it all, I’d toss a bit in there and see if it helps. Also remember, as it cools it firms up more, and once it’s chilled it’ll be firmer still. So don’t go too crazy with the pectin. You don’t want nectarine cement. It just so happens nectarines are a low-pectin fruit, and mine needed a little boost. So I added a little pectin to give it a kick in the ass. But preserves have a slightly looser consistency than jam or jelly does, it’s more like a marmalade. Also, the word “ripe” is key here. Use ripe fruits only, and cut off any bruises or dark spots. Unripened fruits aren’t soft enough for making this, you’ll be standing there forever stirring it, hoping for the best, and end up with chunks of fruit in a sugar syrup. One or two of my nectarines weren’t ripe, and they didn’t cook down, but they left themselves in lovely, random little chunks throughout. This has started me on a tea-infused tirade. Raspberry Six-Summits Oolong jam? Perhaps. Kiwi jam with Frutto Bianco white tea? Maybe.

The number one question people ask me about canning is, “Why bother? Why not just go buy some at the store? Surely it’s cheaper & easier?” or “Why waste your time with this, aren’t pickles cheap enough?” And my answer is, “You’re an idiot.” No, I’m just kidding, it’s really not. My answer is usually a long diatribe about self-sufficiency, about the D.I.Y. movement I so believe in, about how I find that mentality of ‘why make it when I can buy it’ to be so sickening and also to be a large contributor to the downfall of society. But the short answer is really easy: like baking- it keeps me sane, it’s fun, and it’s useful. I mean, where can you buy nectarine preserves with Earl Grey tea? I know I’ve never seen them. It’s like baking for me- why buy a shitty bland-tasting sheet cake when I can make my own from scratch using Bourbon vanilla? Why buy soggy, over-moist supermarket bakery cupcakes with too-sweet frosting when I can make my own, that taste way better, from scratch and personalize them with things like crumbled bacon on top? Same thing with canning. I’ve been an artist & craftswoman my whole life- I do a lot of things myself. From cutting my own hair, to dying it, to piercing my own ears, to making my own pickles and growing my own vegetables. From painting garage doors myself and repurposing old tables to painting & replacing the knobs on an old chest to freshen it up and turning an old cashmere sweater that shrunk into a winter throw-pillow cover & a hot water bottle case. From making my own lemon olive oil body scrub to rolling out my own pasta & making my own ice cream. It’s a certain kind of ethic I learned from my mother. I’ll never stop doing that stuff, ever, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. D.I.Y. forever!

People also have this crazy idea that making this stuff from scratch is hard or really complicated. I swear it isn’t, really. I promise you. Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry/pH balances & acidity/the degree food has to be heated to kill bacteria/Harvard degree can do this. Haha. Joking. Anyone with a canning kit who can read directions can do this. And should. Ignore the people who make it seem like you need to have attended Oxford University to figure out how to seal a jar.

You’re either a leader or a follower, and I choose to be a leader. If you don’t get why I make my own jam, then maybe you’re the one missing out. And if you don’t understand my grief, then you’re also missing out. Grief means you loved someone so much, you can’t believe they’re no longer here & your heart hurts when it hits you. If you don’t feel that way about anyone… then you haven’t loved. Or lived. So as I find my way into a “new normal”, I at least know that I have feelings (which is more than I can say for a lot of people I know) & that I knew what it was to truly love. And in this day & age, I’m not sure a whole lot of people really know what that means.

Minty Green tea & honey granita.

That’s a mouthful, innit?

Before I continue with this recipe, I want to remind you not to forget to enter to win a gorgeous Shabby Apple apron! Yep, if you’re a U.S. resident you’re eligible to win this super adorable Wildberry Pie apron. The giveaway ends July 2nd, so make sure you go here, read the details, and enter. Also, a few days ago Michelle (from Kissed by Sweets) gave me a blog award! Thank you, Michelle. Lil’ ol me getting a blog award! Mama always said I was special. Anyway it’s called the Versatile Blogger Award, and with this award comes responsibility. I must give the award to other blogs I’m currently loving, so here goes:

..

I happen to be THE WORST commenter ever, so if you’re the owner of one of the aforementioned blogs, don’t expect to see many from me. But I really do read them all the time and love them. So with this award I’m also supposed to tell you a few things (like 7) about myself…  and you all who I mentioned, are in turn, supposed to do this same thing. Although I’m not a stickler for rules (ha!), so I won’t whip any of you with wet noodles if you don’t. Let’s see, 7 things about me, which is kinda rare here. I mean, I talk about myself all the time, but not in minute unrelated-to-baking detail… so I’ll just wrap this up quickly: I’m sunburned (for one of the few times in my born-&-raised-in-NY life I could be called a ‘redneck‘), I have my natural haircolor for the first time in like 8+ years, I’m currently wearing a NOFX t-shirt, I’m currently listening to (very old) White Zombie, I’m planning on making Meyer lemon curd & cream cheese pound cake later on this week, my nail polish is currently Velvet Voyeur by Essie and last but not least… I’m awesome.

So here’s the deal with this recipe. I don’t like Green tea (more on that later). I don’t like Mark Bittman; yeah, sure he’s got some good recipes but he’s such a whiny sourpuss bastard (I’m sorry Mark but you are, and the curmudgeon bit is getting old). The entire time I watched Spain… on the road Again, and the scene featured him, I wanted to slit my throat with all of his bitching & complaining. I don’t really like honey; it’s good in honey cake or some kinds of tea but I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan. I’m more into raw sugar/German rock sugar in my tea. I do like mint, though, and I grow it in my garden. There’s a whole lot about this recipe I’m not a big fan of, but as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Plus- it’s hot, granita is easy to make, and I’m lazy. I’ve made it before & I have to say, there’s probably nothing simpler. And when it’s so hot out the devil himself knocks on your door & asks if you’ve got central air, you don’t want anything complex.

Granita is an Italian dessert, specifically Sicilian, traditionally made from sugar, water, and flavoring. The most popular in Italy being lemon and almond, it has expanded into chocolate & other flavors. The texture can run the gamut from sorbet-like to snow-cone-like and everything in between. This one is a chunkier, icier one. I like all the different textures, myself, my favorites being the smooth Italian ice kind and the really ice crystal-y kind.

So like I said above, if I can be brutally honest (and when am I ever not?)… I love tea. I really do. I love all kinds of teas; herbal, chai, black, white, oolong, etc. However… personally, and pardon my French… but I think Green tea sucks hardcore balls. It’s not good, at all. And if it is good, it’s because it’s combined with other flavors & sweeteners (i.e. honey, lemon, orange, pomegranate, etc). But I totally get the health benefits of it (source):

1. Lowers your risk of cancer. Although the studies of how green tea affects cancerous cells are still in their infancy, there have been human trials which indicate that it does inhibit cells from developing cancer. EGCG in green tea regulates and inhibits cancer growth by killing cells that are growing inappropriately. In Japan, a study of 500 women with Stage I and Stage II breast cancer found that increasing their green tea consumption before and after surgery significantly lowered the risk of recurrence. Another analysis of 22 studies of the correlation between green tea and lung cancer concluded that by increasing your intake of green tea by two cups a day may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by 18%.
2. Eases the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Study results reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that polyphenol antioxidants in green tea benefits suffers of arthritis by reducing the incidence and severity of the disease. EGCG protects cartilage destruction and reduces joint swelling and pain. This leads many scientists and health professionals to recommend green tea as a legitimate remedy for treating arthritis.
3. Stabilizes your cholesterol levels. Researchers believe that green tea lowers your cholesterol levels by reducing its absorption in your digestive tract and increasing the rate of which it is excreted. However, your body does need cholesterol to build cell membranes, insulate nerve fibres and create hormones. For this, green tea benefits you by preventing the conversion of LDL cholesterol into it’s more dangerous, oxidized form. Oxidized LDL is one of the main factors in the development of atherosclerosis (the build of plaque that blocks your arteries as LDL gets sticky and clings to your artery walls) and increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. The amazing antioxidant effects of green tea protect this, helping to keep your arteries clean.
4. Prevents cardiovascular disease. A Japanese study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed significant reductions in deaths from cardiovascular disease among green tea drinkers. The study found that over an 11 year test period, individuals who drank more than 5 cups per day had a 16% less chance of mortality and mortality related to cardiovascular disease when compared to individuals who drank less than one cup per day. They also found that green tea was especially beneficially in preventing strokes, due in large part to the antioxidants and how they prevent clogged arteries.
5. Boosts your immune system. Catechins, the antioxidant polyphenol compounds, have been shown to have a major impact in your immune system. Research conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2003 revealed that theanine, found in green tea, boosted the activity of the gamma delta T cells that form part of our adaptive and innate immunity. The study followed a group of coffee drinkers and a group of tea drinkers who each drank 600ml of their drink daily. Blood samples taken four weeks later quite clearly showed that production of these anti-bacterial proteins were five times higher in those drinking tea.
6. Promotes weight loss. Both green tea and green tea extract have been shown to fight obesity and lower LDL cholesterol – both of which ultimately lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. The polyphenols in green tea are extremely useful for dissolving triglycerides, a substance in the liver and small intestine made up of mostly sugar and fat, and this is thought to be the reason green tea benefits fat loss. EGCG is also known to stimulate your metabolism and accelerate weight loss. When combined with the caffeine in green tea, this causes your central nervous system to release fat into the bloodstream to be used as fuel which burns your body fat off.
7. Reduces tooth decay. Antibacterial properties found in green tea are also used by your body to kill the bacteria that causes plaque on your teeth. Research by the Journal of Periodontology has also shown that for every cup of green tea you drink, there is a decrease in indicators for gum disease. Fluoride is also found in green tea which helps to protect against cavities.
8. Effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. In 2007, Dr. Orhan Aktas from the Institute of Neuroimmunology conducted a study of how green tea benefits sufferers of multiple sclerosis. While current patients do not have many options to prevent tissue damage and disability, he found that the flavonoid EGCG found in green tea could have a huge impact on multiple sclerosis. He concluded that EGCG is capable of directly protecting against neuronal injury in living brain tissue and that EGCG constituents may open up a new therapeutic avenue for treating MS by combining anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective capacities.
9. Slows the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A recent report published in the journal Phytomedicine has found substantial evidence that the enzymes found in green tea protect your brain cells from damage. Another study conducted by the University of South Florida looked at the effects of antioxidant EGCG. It was shown to be a protein blocker which prevented the chemical reactions that can lead to nerve damage that can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
10. Fights the cause of allergies in your body. Methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been shown to block a cells receptor involved in producing an allergic response. By blocking the production of histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE), two compounds in the body that are chiefly involved in triggering and sustaining allergic reactions, EGCG could very well be the compound which prevents you from having watery eyes, sneezing and coughing.
11. Helps to fend off infections. Again, as one of the main benefits of green tea, EGCG has been highlighted by a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology as being able to prevent infections, including the HIV virus. EGCG binds with CD4 immune system T-cell receptors and stops HIV from doing the same to reduce the risk of infection. While it is still way too early to peg green tea as a cure for HIV, an Egyptian study has shown that combining antibiotics with green tea significantly boosts the effectiveness of the antibiotic. In fact, when tested against 28 disease-causing microorganisms, green tea enhanced the bacteria killing power in every single case.
12. Reduces and prevents acne. Green tea benefits acne in a number of different ways. It’s antibacterial properties attack and kill the acne bacteria while the anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea reduce the swelling and redness. Antioxidants fight against free radicals which damage the skin and make it more susceptible to acne also help to balance hormone levels to help prevent future breakouts from happening.
13. Slows the aging process to prevent wrinkles. One of the latest benefits of green tea is the effect it has on your skin and the aging process. It is again down to the antioxidants that prevent cell oxidation and damage that can make you look older than you really are. Studies are mixed on this particular green tea benefit as new research has come to light which suggests the full benefits can only be had by applying green tea topically to your skin. However, many people have found that potent green tea extracts do have a positive effect on their skin, leaving it softer, more supply and younger looking.

So yeah, I see how it’s worth it to imbibe in it once in a while. For me, it’s easier to do so if it’s in a icy, sweet, minty & refreshing form like this granita.

Despite Mark Bittman being annoying, this recipe went over big on a super hot June day when I was at a loss as to what kind of dessert to make. Thanks Mark. Or actually, thanks to the real author of the recipe, Freya Bellin.

MINTY GREEN TEA & HONEY GRANITA

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 green tea bags, or 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • ¼ cup honey, or more as needed
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Bring 3 cups water almost to a boil. Add the tea and mint, cover, and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes, then strain to remove the solids. Stir in the honey and lemon juice. Taste and add more honey if necessary to make a nicely sweet blend.
  2. Pour the mixture into a shallow glass or ceramic pan and freeze for at least 2 hours, stirring to break up the crystals every 30 minutes or so. It should be slushy and crunchy with ice crystals.
  3. If the granita becomes too hard, pulse it (do not puree) in a food processor before serving, or set it in the fridge for a bit and stir once in a while to bring back the desired texture.

Keep in mind, as it freezes it will lose some sweetness, so add the honey accordingly. Also, you could do this with almost any kind of tea, herbal or otherwise. Granita lends itself so well to almost any kind of flavor or liquid. I used fresh lemon juice to make lemon granita, and I used P♥M Wonderful pomegranate juice & orange juice to make pomegranate granita last year, just take off from that stepping stone. Next time I think I’ll try a black tea with some lemon & sugar. Or maybe the traditional almond… mmm.

….

Garnished with fresh mint (as I garnish all the granita’s I make), it’s a deliciously refreshing summer treat, that you don’t need to sweat your balls off in a hot kitchen to make. Those cute little glasses are from Ikea & they’re drinking glasses, but a perfect size for serving granita, mini-parfaits or ice cream.