One of the reasons I decided to assign herbs to March in the Mastery Challenge is that most years, I am absolutely desperate for something bright and fresh by this time of year. There’s not much in local produce these days beyond storage apples, potatoes, beets, and onions. After months of sturdy, serviceable produce, I’m so weary of these reliable overwintered basics.
However, it’s almost always possible to get beautiful herbs, both fresh and dried. Some are local (grown in high tunnels, greenhouses, and even windowsill pots), and others come from points further south. Still, no matter where they come from, these herbs provide a needed burst of flavor and freshness in a time when the other green pickings are slim.
I’ve been enjoying tucking herbs into my various preserves this month and was particularly pleased with the pair of things I made with a two-pound bag of fragrant lemons. The one I’m going to talk about today is this lemon basil syrup.
Part of the reason that I decided to make a syrup is that I’m currently pregnant with twins (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have picked up on this news). One thing that this pregnancy demands from me is that I drink a truly huge amount of water each day (depending on my level of activity, my body is asking for between 4 and 6 quarts water within a 24 hour period).
While I’ve never had any quibble with plain old water, it can get a little tiresome after the first gallon. And so having a jar of flavorful syrup in the fridge means that I can add a teaspoon or two to a glass of seltzer or a mug of hot water and bring a little variety to my constant hydration.
For this syrup, I chose to use a ratio of one part lemon juice and one part sugar (I use it very sparingly). This makes this syrup a true simple syrup. One of the benefits of using this volume of sugar is that it will keep for a longer period because the sugar reduces water activity and helps prevent spoilage. However, if you find that to be too much sugar for your taste, you could use this recipe for lemon ginger concentrate and swap in basil for the ginger.
- 2 pounds of lemons, juiced
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
- Juice lemons.
- Measure out 1 1/4 cups of juice and pour it into a small saucepan. Add sugar and basil leaves.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the basil is wilted.
- Remove the pan from the stove and let it sit for an hour or two, to further infuse the basil flavor.
- Strain concentrate through a fine mesh sieve to remove basil leaves.
- This syrup can be canned for shelf stability, but the yield will only be around two cups. I prefer to funnel it into a pint jar and keep it in the fridge.
- If you want to can it, here's what to do.
- Funnel the finished syrup into a pair of clean, hot half pint jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- When the time is up, remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortably handle them, check the seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.