In about six weeks, I’m moving from Amish Country to Sandhills of North Carolina. So I’d thought I’d take a swing at what friends in the new town call the ‘champagne of the South’, sweet iced tea.
There are easy ways to get it:
1. Buy pre-made, pre-flavored sugar syrups, and portion them into your tea. However…you don’t know what’s really in those, do you?
2. For mint fans, pick up a few bottles of Menno Tea. It’s ready to drink, in sanitary glass bottles. I can tell you the five all natural ingredients in it: brewed tea in purified water, sugar, natural mint flavor, natural lemon flavor and citric acid.
3. Go old-school and make up a batch of sassafras tea with Pappy’s Sassafras Tea Concentrate–just an ounce in a 8 to 10 ounce glass of ice water, and you’re in business!
4. And then there’s the traditional, Old South way of making iced tea: first, with the best water you can get, you make sugar syrup. Then, with more of the best water you can get, you make the tea.
Sugar Syrup for Iced Tea
1 cup water (filtered, if necessary)
1 cup sugar
Pour water into four-cup saucepan over medium heat. As the water hits soft simmer stage, add sugar. Stir constantly to help dissolve sugar. Boil sugar and water mixture for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.
Basic Iced Tea With Sugar Syrup
4 cups water (filtered, if needed)
6-8 tea bags (variable, how strong do you like it?)
1/2-1 cup sugar syrup (variable, how sweet do you like your tea?)
2 quart tea pitcher or bottle
Put 1/2 cup sugar syrup in a tea pitcher or bottle, and let it warm to room temperature as you make the tea.
Pour the water in a large saucepan, and as soon as it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Add tea, and steep to your desired strength. Remove the tea bags when the tea is at your desired strength, and let cool to room temperature. Pour into the tea pitcher or bottle. Taste for sweetness. If needed, add extra syrup. Refrigerate.
Sweet tea is an art–tweak it until it tastes right to you. It may take more water, less syrup, more tea, whatever. Use this recipe as a base, and go from there.
For one gallon tea: increase water to 1 gallon, increase tea bags to 8 to 10, depending on how strong you like it.
Take care: Be aware that the hot sugar water can burn badly–it will stick to anything if it splashes, so turn down the heat if needed, but make sure sugar water stays at a full boil for the 5 minutes. The 5-minute boiling time incorporates both the water and sugar completely, and guarantees the sugar is in solution. Make sure children and pets are kept well away from the stove when you make the syrup. If you get sugar syrup on you, rinse the area under cold water immediately and get medical attention.
“Picnic-or-Party Time Iced Tea: To serve your iced tea in our 3 gallon cold beverage dispensers, make tea in separate container, and then add to container. Be sure to freeze some tea into ‘iced tea cubes’–add that to the dispenser, and keep your tea cool without diluting it!
Adding flavors: add fruit or flavorings (like our sassafras or strawberry) to the water as it warms, prior to boiling. Unless you’re making a huge batch of tea, you’ll only need 1/4 cup to 1 cup fruit. Strain fruit out of syrup mixture when it cools, before putting syrup in jar or bottle for storage. You may have to experiment with fruit to get the strength of flavor you’re looking for. With flavorings, you can easily add few drops to the finished tea if you want more flavor after the tea’s in the pitcher.
Why room temperature syrup to start? Really, you don’t want to add warm tea to cold syrup, especially in a glass vessel. The vessel may break.