For most of my life, I never really thought about tea. As far as I knew, it came in dusty little packets that you plopped into a mug and poured boiling water over. Though in recent years, I have dabbled a bit in the buying of loose leaf teas, I’m still essentially a tea neophyte.
Whenever I have a tea question, I turn to my friend Alexis. She writes the blog teaspoon & petals and is something of a tea expert (as well as drinker and appreciator). For months now, Alexis and I have been talking about the idea of making a tea-infused preserve, but for a handful of reasons (most of them having to do with the fact that I was tethered to my cookbook for most of the last year), it hasn’t happened.
Finally, last Friday, Alexis came over to my apartment with a tote bag full of teas and we set out to make a tea-infused jelly. Since peaches have just come into season in the Philadelphia area, I picked up half a dozen to use as the fruit component for our jelly.
When Alexis first arrived, we stood around my dining room table, each with a peach in hand, sniffing first the fruit and then the various teas, trying to determine which match-up would work the best. We settled on the Orchid Oolong from Mighty Leaf Tea and got to work.
I started by making a simple syrup from two cups of water and two cups of sugar. Once the sugar dissolved, I lowered four bags of tea into the simmering liquid and allowed them to steep for five minutes (we set a timer and everything). While the syrup simmered, Alexis did the work of chopping the peaches.
When the time was elapsed, I removed the tea and we both tasted the syrup. It was amazingly flavorful and I was tempted to stop right there and pour the syrup into a jar for drizzling into seltzer. I may still try that at some point in the future.
But since this was a jelly-making session, we soldiered on and added our sliced peaches (we ended up using four hefty ones) to the pot. The fruit we used was a bit under-ripe, which turned out to be really good for the purposes of the jelly. They added a nice tartness that played really well again the sweetness of the base syrup.
The peaches simmered along in the syrup for a bit more than ten minutes. We tasted several times during cooking to see how the flavors were progressing. Once the balance seemed good, I strained the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, pressed the now-softened peaches to get as much juicy goodness out as possible and returned the syrup to the pot (the gently candied peaches went into a separate container and I’ve been eating them in yogurt for the last few days).
I added some powdered pectin to the syrup (as well as one more tea bag to reinforce that flavor) and brought it to a vigorous boil. Using a candy thermometer, we tracked the temperature as it approached 220 degrees. Once it reached the magic 220 degrees, I swept the pot off the stove, removed the final tea bag, poured the rapidly setting jelly into jars and processed them in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
While the jars were processing, I sliced in a bit of Midnight Moon and we smeared a bit of the jelly that remained on the inside of the pot onto little slivers of cheese. It was a heartbreakingly good combination.
The final jelly is a nicely set, delicately flavored thing. It works with cheese and would also be fantastic smeared on a scone with a mug of milky tea. It’s got me imagining the possibilities for other tea-infused preserves and I’m excited to give a few other flavor match-ups a try.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 5 bags Orchid Oolong tea
- 4 large peaches, sliced
- 2 tablespoons powdered pectin
- Prepare two 1/2 pint jars and one 1/4 pint jar. Bring a boiling water bath to a boil.
- In a large pot, combine sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add four tea bag to pot and let them simmer for five minutes.
- When time is up, remove tea bags and add sliced peaches. Let simmer for approximately ten minutes, tasting regularly to monitor the intensity of flavor. When the balance of peach and oolong tastes good to you, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, pressing gently on peaches to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Return syrup to pot and add two tablespoons powdered pectin. Bring to a rapid boil and monitor temperature. When the jelly liquid reached approximately 220 degrees, it is done.
- Remove pot from heat and pour jelly into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes.
- When time is up, remove jars from canner and let cool on a dish towel. When jars are cool, remove rings and test seal. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator. Unopened jars of jelly will keep on the shelf for up to one year.