Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tisane - Infusion

To combat the cold and to bring some inner comfort, I've been brewing lots of infusions lately, in many different variations.

There is no specific recipe, per se - I use what I have on hand.  We tend to have boxes of freshly dried herbs around our apartment - see photo below.   The verbena here is from last summer when it was abundantly available.  You'll find mint, parsley & sage there as well.

If you happen to have fresh herbs on hand, go ahead & use them -  they would even be preferable.  But recently dried herbs are pretty amazing, too.  And by recent, I'm talking about something you've dried yourself within the last 12 months.  I encourage everyone to dry their own herbs if you have access to good quality fresh bouquets (more on drying herbs in another post). 

My favorite infusion lately is this (with the optional honey & lemon juice):

Infusion in the pot:
2-4 dried sage leaves
Small bunch of dried verbena leaves
a dried mint leaf
A small piece of star anise (usually a broken bit;  a whole star is too intense)
Lemon peel (washed, or oranic is better; no pith) - optional if using lemon juice below
Small piece of a cinnamon stick
A couple of cardamom seeds (not the pods, but the black seeds inside)
Half a piece of a dried vanilla bean pod (previously used for its grains)

Extra Add-ons (Optional...but highly recommended!):
1/2 - 1 soup spoon of honey (or to taste)
A small spoonful of lemon juice

What I do:  Place all the dried ingredients into my little black tea pot which I absolutely love.  Add boiling water (medium hot boil, if that makes sense...) and let steep for 6 minutes.  I find 6 minutes is long enough, but frankly the timing depends on how intense you like it.  Logically, more time will give a stronger flavor; less time = less flavor!  As with everything I do, I taste it to see if I like it.  When it's done infusing, I pour it into my 2 mugs that already have honey and lemon juice in it.  Stir to blend.  Enjoy!

This one is simply sage, verbena, mint and star anise pod.
One of my boxes of dried herbs
The infusion with honey & lemon - it gets cloudy like this!  It tastes better than perhaps it looks!  ;)
The infusion "naturelle" - no honey & no lemon, for when you don't want extra sugar intake.
If you don't have these particular ingredients on hand, why not play around with your own ingredients to find the taste you like?  I refrain from putting too much star anise in the mix (even if I do adore it).  What I strive for is to have a little bit of each taste present.  Interestingly enough, I first taste the lemon & honey, and this is followed by all of the other herbs & spices - just delicately so.

This tea pot makes it easy to experiment with different variations - I love it for that and because it  keeps the infusion nice & warm. 

At any rate, this is a great, caffeine-free way to help stay hydrated in the winter...aren't we supposed to drink 1.5 liters of water each day?  Something like that...