Craving sweets at night…

I crave sweets all the time. I’m a sugar addict. It’s the only thing I’m addicted to.  Unfortunately, it’s pervasive and hard to get away from. Being a school teacher has only made it harder to get away from….I keep a bag of starburst in my desk for the kids (that part is my own fault), there’s sweet tea on tap in the teacher’s lounge, french fries at the football games (starchy processed food = sugar, ketchup = sugar), cupcakes or donuts at staff meetings (if I weren’t gluten intolerant, I’d be double fisting)….the list goes on.

I find, though, that I especially crave sweets at night…I’ve popped open my laptop and am double checking tomorrow’s lesson plan, or I’m trying to wrap up grading…and visions of sugar plums start dancing in my head.

Other than giving in (sweet, sweet chocolate)….which I do more often than I’d like…the only thing I’ve found that fixes it is my magical cocktail. The recipe changes depending on what I have in the cupboard, but this is how I like to do it:

2-3 ounces of aloe (note on aloe below)
Up to 4 ounces of beet kvass (which you made yourself and is awesome!) (this is the most optional ingredient)
Eyedropper full of chlorophyll (this is my preferred)

Hearty splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (Bragg’s right now, but I’d like to try making it.)
Teeny squeeze of lemon or lime.
4-8 ounces of water (I just fill the jar the rest of the way.)

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Like so!  Black magic!

For additional fun, drink most of it and then add a heaping tablespoon of psyllium husks….add more water as needed…drink before it congeals.

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A friend of mine was studying to be a nutritionist and my brands of choice were initially strongly influenced by her (and her teacher, of course) but then I went out and tried a bunch of different things (or went looking for what she suggested, couldn’t find it, picked something else)….and then I formed my own opinions.  Which happened to be exactly what she recommended at first.  (Incidentally no brand sponsorships here, I’m not that cool – I just really like this stuff.)

Oh, Aloe.  I’ve tried like 4 million types of aloe and a lot of it was weird or gross, but George’s Aloe is perfect and tastes like water.  Half the wholefoods in the world carry it, the other half can order it…also Amazon has it for decent prices.  Here’s the cheapest right now– although I usually buy larger sizes, it doesn’t go bad.

Also, some kinds of psyllium husks make me gag so bad I can’t swallow them no matter what – it’s awful, but I was told to look for the brand with “the smiling Indian man on it” (conveniently actually called Organic India) and they really are the best.  No gagging!

Bottom’s up!  Do you have a favorite health tonic?  Have you tried anything like this before?  I’m curious to know what you think!

Beet Kvass!

I super love when you start a process and end up with more than one end product – like a few weeks ago, when we juiced lemons and got both lemonade and a citrus infused vinegar.  Today’s project will yield three results – so I’m breaking it into three posts!  And posting every day!  Excitement.

First up is Beet Kvass.  I love a shot of this stuff on occasion and when I saw fresh beets in the farmer’s market, I knew it was time for a little beety action.

If you’ve never heard of Beet Kvass, this video (which incidentally is how I found out about it) will answer all of your questions:

The first step is to make whey!  Whey is the liquid part in a lot of dairy products.  I make it by straining yogurt – I’d definitely recommend this way (ha) of making whey because it yields the project in tomorrow’s installment.

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I wrap the yogurt into a little bundle of cheese cloth and tie it around a skewer and leave that in the fridge to drip over night.  Different brands of yogurt produce different amounts of whey, so I always get at least two of the little containers – I find that a big 16 ounce is always a little too much for my needs.

As we learned in the video (and as Sally says) – you only need 1/8-1/4 cup of whey – but never fear, in installment 3, we’ll use whatever is left of your whey for something else!

Next we chop our beet.  I never peel mine, just give them a bit of a scrub and chop them into 1″-ish cubes.

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Bua-ha-ha-ha beet carnage.

Then you just chuck your beets and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the jar with your whey, shake, and wait for two days!

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Day 1!  Beets soaking, you can see the foam around the top already!

I’ve always been fond of picklebacks (shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine), but for a colorful twist on that- you can try beetbacks.  I had the bright idea a few years ago and they were the hit of a friend’s birthday party- a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of beet kvass.  Cures what ails ya!

 

Small-batch Homemade Hard Cider from Storebought Juice

This is a recipe I’ve been tweaking over time (that is bits and bobs borrowed from here and there to begin with!), but I think it’s a pretty decent (and easy) one for a novice home-brewer. 🙂

You’ll Need:

  • A gallon glass jug of apple juice or cider from the store (this saves you having to buy juice and the bottle – aka carboy – separately)
  • A packet of cider yeast –  I like this one.
  • An airlock – like this guy
  • A few tablespoons of alcohol, type unimportant
  • An appropriately sized bung…yup, a bung…also called a drilled stopper. The wholefoods brand juice takes a size 6.5 bung.
  • Another quart of juice or cider (you won’t use this for a few weeks, so don’t worry too much about this yet)
  • A cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup of honey or brown sugar
  • A bucket or pot that holds at least a gallon and a half of liquid.
  • A length of food grade tubing – mine is about 4 feet, which is the least I’d recommend.
  • Bottles – I’m a fan of swing tops like these – so that I don’t have to deal with capping them.

Day 1:

  • Sterilize your stopper (I just run it through the dishwasher on sanitize).
  • Open your juice and dispose of the cap – you won’t need this.
  • Dump in about 1/4 packet of yeast.  The rest can go back into the fridge for later or you can chuck it if you’re never going to do this again.
  • Pop the top on your airlock and fill with alcohol.  As you can see mine has purple liquid in it – it’s creme violette, which is all I happened to have had laying around, oddly.  Some places will tell you to fill your airlock with sanitizer, but I’d rather fill it with something that I wouldn’t mind drinking if it splashed in.
  • Put your jug in a cool-dry place out of direct sunlight.  Cider likes a cool ferment, so between 60 and 70 degrees is best, but up to 75 is ok.
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Day 3:

  • Check to see that there are bubbles passing through the liquid in the airlock.

Day 7:

  • Sterilize your bucket or pot and your tubing.
  • Siphon (with your tubing) the liquid from your glass bottle and into your pan.
  • Clean out and then sterilize your glass jug.
  • Siphon your cider into your now sanitized glass jug, return airlock, return to its cool, dry place.

Day 21:

  • Place a cinnamon stick and your sugar or honey into a pan with the fresh quart of apple juice or cider.
  • Heat until all of the sugar has dissolved and then cover and allow to return to room temperature.
  • Sterilize your bucket or pot.
  • Pour sweetened room-temperature juice (sans cin. stick) into this bucket or pot.
  • Siphon your cider into this bucket or pot and allow it to mix
  • Then siphon into bottles.  This can be a bit of a sticky situation if you’re not careful.  A sanitized ladle and funnel can be helpful as this is a tiny batch.
  • I got this trick from a brewing forum – fill a clean coke bottle with cider so you can check for carbonation.

Days 23-25:

  • Squeeze the coke bottle to test for carbonation.  Once it feels like a regular coke does (pretty solid), you have good carbonation in your  cider.  You now have two options.  If you’re keeping the cider for yourself and have fridge space for it, put it all in the fridge – this is called “cold crashing” and will kill all the yeast and stop it from making anymore alcohol (or exploding your bottles).  If you want to store it at room temperature or give it away, you need to heat pasturize it to kill the yeast.  I’ve never done this, because I’m the only person I know who loves cider.  If you want to try it, there’s a post here that will walk you through the steps.  Please don’t hurt yourself.

At this point, I drink the coke bottle cider – it’s not in a pretty bottle and I want to know what the baseline taste is.  Your cider will mellow with age, so I’d let it rest in the fridge for 2-6 weeks…but you can let it age for up to a year, if you feel like it. If you start this week, you’ll have a great offering for the Thanksgiving dinner table. 🙂

FIRE CIDER – The People’s Medicine! (recipe always in flux)

A few years ago, a coworker of mine came in with a bottle of fire cider that her mother had sent her and dared all of us to give it a taste….we were nervous at first, especially me, I DO NOT LIKE spicy things…  But I tried it….it was spicy and sweet and complex and it got my blood moving. which is exactly what it’s designed to do!

As soon as I figured out just how easy it is to make, I set out to make my own.  I make it differently every time I do it, although there are some *must have* ingredients in there…I’ll get to that. 🙂

The recipe is based on a number of recipes handed down potentially since the days of the Black Plague, but it’s been perfected and titled by Rosemary Gladstar, a matriarch of the modern herbal community.

It’s an immune booster, a digestive aid, a blood stimulant, a winter warmer, a cold chaser.  It’s a great thing to have around and SUPER easy to make.  You can drink it straight, mix it into juice, put it on a salad, mix it with hot water and honey like a tea (you can also inhale the steam to get your sinuses moving).  It’s pretty magical stuff.

You can watch Rosemary make it and talk about it here:

There are tons of variations on this recipe, but the key ingredients are garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, apple cider vinegar and honey.  You can add other varieties of pepper, peppercorns, turmeric, cinnamon, rose hip, other members of the allium family, citrus, fennel, thyme, lavender, echinacea, parsley…basically if it makes you think: immune boosting, full of vitamin c, warming, blood stirring, or digestive….you can throw it in there.

Today as I was repeatedly strolling the farmer’s market (it was a glorious day here…and anyone who follows me on Instagram saw my silly vintage cape ensemble that I was strolling in)….I kept noticing the brightly colored peppers on all the stalls.  I don’t like spicy food, so I only ever use peppers for fire cider.  I also knew I had ginger at home because of my recent ginger soda endeavors…so I decided to make my first batch of fire cider for the year.

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Current Batch of Fire Cider Includes:

  • 2 small local vidalia onions
  • 1 heirloom cayenne pepper
  • 1 peach habanero pepper
  • a big chunk of horseradish (probably about a half a cup of chopped root)
  • about 6 little chunks of turmeric root (about 1/4 cup of root bits)
  • an orange
  • most of a lemon
  • a 6 inch piece of ginger root
  • about a quarter cup of scallion tops (I had them lying around)
  • two full heads of garlic (pressed)
  • a big chunk of rosemary from the garden
  • an entire bottle of Braggs apple cider vinegar

It’s all chopped up and chucked into a half gallon mason jar.  I’m actually using one of my super vintage ones because it has a glass lid – vinegar tends to corrode the metal ones, which isn’t so nice.  If you’re using one with a metal lid, everyone says to stick a piece of waxed or parchment paper between the lid and the jar.

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Once it’s macerated for 4-6 weeks (and shake that baby occasionally, it does really help), I’ll strain out all the veggie matter and mix in honey to taste.  I actually have a rosebush in my yard that’s going to hip nicely…so I might make a honey/rosehip syrup and mix that in.  The fun part is that you don’t have to adhere to any recipe strictly.  You can make it differently every single time if you want to.

I keep the big bottle in the fridge, but I have a small bottle on my bathroom counter with an eyedropper and I take it if I’m feeling like I’m starting to get sick, if my stomach is upset, or if I’m really cold….or sometimes just for fun.  If I feel like I need a big dose, I mix it into OJ.  I also like to keep a small bottle in my travel bag and take it while I’m traveling…I think it’s better than Airborne.

If you want to read about the current (and really appalling) trademark controversy over fire cider (essentially a corporation has placed a trademark on a folk remedy that isn’t theirs to trademark and has been sending nasty letters to herbalists all over the country to have them change the name of their product), please go here: http://freefirecider.com/  – also consider signing the petition here to revoke this trademark.

Traditions not trademarks!

Lactofermented Ginger Beer

Last soda recipe!  Ginger beer.  Ginger is a traditional remedy for upset stomach, remember mom bringing you ginger ale when you were sick?  There isn’t a whole lot of ginger in the store brands, but something like this is sure to deliver the healing power of the root *and* it tastes awesome.

Another bonus this time of year is that it’s the right season for the classic Dark & Stormy cocktail…and to make a good Dark & Stormy, you need a Ginger Beer that can stand up to the spiced rum.  This one should do it *and it’s pretty good for you* – could balance out the alcohol?

Ginger Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 4-6 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 2 limes (you could use lemon, but lime is better) juiced
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice (not honey – it’s anti-bacterial and you need the bacteria)

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water and ginger.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the wort (the thing about to be soda) to blood temperature! Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to get there – but spot check it, you definitely don’t want it cold. I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer. When your ginger beer has cooled, squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  6. Strain it to remove the plant material (ginger gratings and lime pulp). To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag. Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  7. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the ginger beer.
  8. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  9. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have ginger beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.

For a solid Dark & Stormy, you’ll need 3 ounces of this (a little less than a half a cup), 2 ounces of dark rum (1/4 cup) (Gosling’s is the traditional brand), and a squeeze of lime juice.  Place ice & all ingredients in a bar glass, stir, and garnish with a lime.  That should chase any early-Fall chill away. 🙂

 

 

Natural Lactofermented Root Beer

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Although I was raised predominantly by my mother, I’m a lot like my father – and that extends down to my tastebuds.  I had lunch with my father at his regular workday lunch spot recently and the waitress laughed when I ordered root beer.  My dad followed suit.  We both love it.

My quest for lactofermented soda actually started with a quest for root beer, but it’s a little more complicated than the apple/ginger guy I posted about yesterday, so I wanted to tackle it second.

I like to make it in small batches because I’m still tweaking the recipe, but this is the current incarnation:

Root Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons sassafras root bark (NOT POWDERED)
  • 3 tablespoons sarsaparilla root  (see above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of wintergreen leaves (chopped)
  • cinnamon stick
  • about 2 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water, herbs, and extract.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the root beer to blood temperature!  Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 20 minutes to get there.  I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer.  When your Root Beer has cooled, strain it to remove the herbs.  To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag.  Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  6. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the root beer.
  7. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  8. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have root beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.  Sweet, herbal, and actually pretty good for you.  Toss in a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!IMG_6644

Floating sticks!

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Beware when opening!  There will be foam!

Additional notes:

Generally speaking most, if not all, of the weirder things (sassafras, sarsparilla, wintergreen, cinnamon sticks, swing-top bottles) can be found at the home brew store.  Mine didn’t have sassafras and I’m really into wildcrafting/foraging…soooooo I went for a hike and went looking for sassafras trees.  The only ones I ended up finding were in a stand that had been planted about two years ago.  I picked up some downed branches and yanked up a couple of seedlings that had sprung up too close to the main trees (as joggers stared at me, ha!) and brought them home.  My first batch of root beer had chopped twigs (no leaves) and what little bits of root I could find grated into it.  It wasn’t as strongly flavored as subsequent batches that were made after the root I ordered arrived….but I rooted one of the saplings (hopefully it survives) and in a few years I’ll have as much root as I can dig – and no joggers staring at me.

 

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 Not quite blood temperature!

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Sassafras tree.  In the Spring, I’ll find a good spot for her.

 

 

Apple/Ginger Soda – an easy one!

I got this recipe from here and didn’t do much to it.

Apple Ginger Soda Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup ginger bug from yesterday’s ginger bug recipe
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly juiced ginger (or crushed)
  • 3 1/2 cups freshly juiced apple (or unpasturized apple cider/juice)
  • half a stick of cinnamon per bottle

I like to make sure that the juice is room temperature before adding the bug, I don’t want to shock the poor baby!  Mix all ingredients except cinnamon stick and bottle (I prefer the swingtop (grolsch) style bottles, but the author of the original post recommends against them- YMMV on this point).  Drop half a cinnamon stick in each bottle and seal up.  When opening anything fizzy, point it away from your face.  This should be ready to drink in about 3 days (you should hear the gas escaping on opening if it’s ready)….although Sally says you should let it sit for two weeks before opening!  Anything that’s not drunk in two weeks should definitely be stored in the fridge…and I like to cool my soda before drinking it anyway.

Ferment and enjoy!  Let me know how it went!

Probiotic Lactofermented Homemade Soda – Start with Ginger Bug!

Oh man, fermentation.  It’s so fun.  It feels like a science project, fizzes on the tongue, and is actually good for you.  It also has recipes that call for cooling things to “blood temperature” in case you needed to feel more badass than you already do.

This week, I made myself a ginger bug.  Which, once you get used to remembering to feed it, (at least every other day, but better daily) feels like you have a little pet on your counter!  You can even put it to sleep by sticking it in the fridge.  Goodnight, ginger bug!

I love me some Sally Fallon / Nourishing Traditions, and she has a recipe for ginger bug in her beverage chapter (slipped into the ginger beer recipe) as well as some other weird stuff like Sweet Potato Soda and Oat Water.

The general idea of ginger bug is to take a quart sized mason jar and add 3 teaspoons of sugar (white is fine, you won’t be eating this– the BUG will!) and 3 teaspoons of chopped or grated ginger (with skin) to 3 cups of water.  Your bug needs to live in a warmish place (I like the top of the fridge for this – but put it somewhere you won’t forget about it.).  At least every other day add 2 tsp of sugar and 2 more tsp of grated ginger.  You should see bubbles forming within 3 days, which will increase the longer you feed your little bugger.  It’s ready to use as soon as it becomes active, but most sources recommend waiting at least a week.  If you don’t see bubbles (or hear gas escaping when you open it) after 7 days, chuck it out and start again.

If you have grown a ginger bug, but have run out of uses for it – stick it in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use it again, sit it on the counter for three days to reactivate (and feed it while it’s out!)

If you’re out of bug liquid and want to restart it – compost half of the sediment in the bottom, refill the water, and start with the feeding plan again!

I’m making three batches of lacto-fermented sodas to share with you- root beer (my favorite), ginger beer (might want to go out and get some dark rum immediately), and sparkling apple cider.  I’ll be posting the recipes to these every day for the next three.  By the time your bug is ready to use, you’ll have a few recipes at hand to try out!

Enjoy bugging out!

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Soda waiting to be ready and a new round of ginger bug growing stronger by the day!

Labor Day Lavender Mint Lemonade…and Lemon Vinegar Cleaner

Labor Day is that day when we all realize that summer is pretty much over…sigh.  But in honor of our national day of rest, I cooked up a batch of my favorite lemonade…and (because my little cherubs at school are all starting to be sick) I used the lemon peels to make a citrus surface cleaner.  I love multi-tasking.  For about $3 I got a delicious pitcher of lemonade and enough spray cleaner to last me into the new year.  Wanna know how?  Let’s go!

The first step involves your herbs – you can use fresh or dried.  I had fresh lavender in the garden, but wanted to use up some of last year’s dried peppermint.  I gave my lavender a bit of a haircut.  Once the leaves were stripped from the stalk (just like with rosemary, invert and scrape) I had about a quarter cup of little lavender needles and a few flowers.  I grabbed about a cup (not packed too hard) of peppermint leaves from their jar – with dried you always want to use more to make up for the potency lost during the drying process.

Put 5 cups of water in a saucepan – if you’re using sugar, put 2.5 cups of sugar in with it and boil until the sugar dissolves.  If you’re using honey, which I do – I use about a cup and a half of honey and *never* boil honey, it destroys the lovely enzymes in it and is just not necessary.   So for honey – heat the water to almost boiling, remove from heat add the honey and stir until it dissolves.  Then (for both versions) add the herbs, stir until they’re saturated in the syrup, cover and leave covered until cooled.  As with many recipes of this nature, it may only take 30 minutes to cool to room temperature, but the longer you leave it, the stronger the syrup.  I always recommend leaving it overnight.

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Next we make the lemonade part!  You’ll need about a 2lbs of lemons (about a dozen).  Usually when it comes to citrus, you don’t really need to wash them…but because we’re using the peels – I like to give the outsides a little scrub (and take the stickers off).  Halve them and juice them.  I love any excuse to use my vintage citrus juicer!

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Strain the seeds and pulp out of the lemon juice and pour it into a pitcher.  Once the herbal concoction has cooled, strain that into the same pitcher, add 4-5 more cups of water (you might want to spot check it for strength as you go), stir and serve over ice.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a shot or so of gin to the mix and garnish with fresh mint. 🙂

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Pictured with my favorite gin….that I will need to figure out where to procure now that I’m not in the northeast!

Making the cleaner is the easy part – pack a mason jar (or jars) with the peels, pour vinegar into jar and let steep for two weeks.  I periodically check to make sure that the vinegar is covering the peels and to agitate it slightly.  Once you’re ready to use it – fill a spray bottle 1/4 full with the infused vinegar and the remaining 3/4 with water (or half and half if you’ve got a really dirty mess on your hands, but I find 1:3 works great).  You can also use citrus vinegar as a base for salad dressing or in cooking.  It’s useful stuff! 🙂

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First Week of School Done – Celebrating with a Cocktail!

Mint Juleps are my favorite summer cocktail (school may have started, but it’s still summer ok?!)– they’re a no brainer when you have a mint plant in the garden that just won’t quit.  I also, no surprise, have a little honey around (not mine yet, but local and raw and tasty).  So I decided to make my own version of the classic.

First of all – Minty Honey Simple Syrup:

Fill a mason jar (or equivalent) about a third full of mint leaves.  Then 1/2-2/3 full of tap water as hot as you can get it to come out.  The rest of the space in the jar should be filled with honey!  Leave a little “headspace” in there for future shaking.  I like to stir or swirl it a little at first as it’s cooling and then close it up and give it a good shake.  Steep that as is for at least 20-30 minutes…get it good and minty.  Shake it occasionally.  I like to make mine the night before and then leave it in the fridge to really get good and steeped.

Next, strain all the leaves out – and combine with a good bourbon (Four Roses is my current fave) at 1 part syrup to 2 parts bourbon.  I like mine sweet!  I’ve also seen a shot an a half of bourbon to 2.5 tablespoons of syrup…but that’s too precise for my taste.

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Serve over crushed ice in a julep cup if you’ve got the gear…or regular ice in something you like drinking out of…and obviously garnish with more fresh mint.  Delish!