Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nettle Drink

I had a bag of nettles waiting to be used up and decided that I didn't really want to make the nettle tea that I had planned on.

Making a tea, or an infusion, from nettles is really the most simple way to use them. But, in my humble opinion, nettle tea on its own takes a bit of getting used to. Perhaps you need to prepare yourself for such an earthly delight.

Nettles have a woody, mushroomy flavour that translates well into many foods. I think they are most delicious in something like soup, spanokopita, or lasagna. They are also super tasty in the energy balls. But in a simple tea? Yes, perhaps I need to work up to it.

Now you are probably ready to forget about nettles entirely after that introduction, but I must say that all the health benefits of the nettle leave me wanting to aquire a taste for this one of nature's remedies. And perhaps it is also the tales of my medicine-man/herbalist great-grandfather that keep me experimenting with these natural wonders. I am excited about the possibilities...

I debate about what to call this experiment...tea? cordial? juice? In the UK they might call it squash. I don't quite get the term but squash seems to be a sweet juice-like beverage. But I settle on drink because it covers all the obvious bases.

As a starting point, I followed the basic recipes for a cordial, with sugar and some lemon. But I used less sugar than is typically used. I also didn't let it ferment. It turns a lovely pink hue that makes it much more appealing than the green sludge that I was expecting.

I still can't sell my husband on it, but I think it is working on me...I am starting to taste the nettle and enjoy it. Maybe one day I can appreciate it unsweetened, but until then, I will enjoy this version.

If you don't have nettles, you can try this same formula with lemon balm or mint when it starts coming up in the garden.

Nettle Drink
I threw in a couple salmonberry flowers that the kids found along the path. Not required, but they looked nice in the mix. I quickly made another batch with some lemon balm leaves to take to a potluck. The results were pretty tasty. This is just a bit syrupy, so make sure you enjoy it over a tall glass of ice or you may want to dilute it slightly.

2 cups washed nettle tops (packed)
4 cups water
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup cane sugar, or other sweetener, according to taste
optional: salmonberry flowers

1. In a medium saucepan, combine nettles and water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and leave for one hour.
2. Add lemon juice and stir nettle mixture. Using strainer, pour nettle mixture into another saucepan and stir in sugar until dissolved. Heat if necessary to dissolve sugar.
3. Pour into glass jar and refrigerate. Serve over ice in a clear glass. Or, drink warm if you so desire.