Saturday, 20 February 2010

Zinging into Spring with herbal sweets!

This post is part of the UK Herbarium Blog Party, hosted here on Apotheblogary this month, on Emerging from Winter with Herbs.

It's that time of year when I start to feel the longing for the loveliness of spring and long warm days of summer. That my garden is now full of snow drops is helping me along. I chose the theme for this month's party with this in mind, and hoping to get and share inspiration with my fellow herbal bloggers on how herbs can help us in this seasonal transition.

I decided to make a fun recipe and made my first foray into sweet making. With a fairly large helping of beginner's luck, I'm pretty pleased with the result (and the journey was sticky, sweet, herby fun! :)

My recipe is based on a recipe by Kolbjorn Borseth at Aromantic who uses a base mixture of:
  • 100ml water
  • 450g sugar
  • 125g dextrose (which I managed to get from an old-fashioned chemist)
I also liked the ideas in James Wong's echinacea ice lollys (although I wouldn't fancy something cold if I was unwell!). So I replaced the water with cranberry juice, which I had simmered with some ginger and chilli (yes - woohoo!). Kolbjorn gives detailed instructions on making the sweets but in essence you mix the three ingredients together and bring to the boil with the lid on (not stirring). Once its boiling you take the lid off and put the thermometer in (still not stirring) - when it gets to 162 degrees you pour it out onto a greased baking tray. (My thermometer only goes up to 110 degrees so I guessed this bit, which probably isn't recommended).

Earlier, the lady at the cook shop in town recommended I use a Bake-o-glide reusable sheet for sweet making, and I think it would of been much more difficult without this. You can see it below, it allowed me to easily peel the mixture off and keeping folding it in as it cooled.

Once the liquid cools enough to start forming a skin, I added a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of echinacea and ginseng (50:50). The original recipe suggested it would be 1-2 minutes after pouring the liquid out, but I found that the mixture cooled more slowly and it was more like 5 minutes. As it cooled I continued folding it in and kneading the mixture, using the sheet to avoid burnt fingers!

Once it formed a dough-like mass I start pulling pieces off and rolling them into balls, and placing them on a greased baking tray to cool. And this is where the race begins to making your sweets before the mixture cools and solidifies! I ended up working on the pull down door of my oven with the temperature on very low. This helped keep it just warm enough to work with.

I've called these sweets "Spring Zingers"! :) It will be fun to do variations with different juices and tinctures - next time I will make the initial infusion even stronger, because by the time its all mixed in the chilli and ginger are only very faint.

The only problem with these sweets is that they do stick together very easily. I rolled them in a little icing sugar and put them in little plastic bags which makes it easier to separate them (I initially put some in a jar which looked great until, a few hours later they had formed one immovable mass!). Any tips from sweet makers out there would be welcome! I wonder if I should have reduced the 100ml of liquid by the 2 tablespoons I later added to the mix...

I enjoyed making these sweets and plan to give them as springtime presents for family and friends. :-)
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  1. These sound fabulous, I'll be having a go at making something similar, I'm searching for recipes that use honey instead of sugar at the minute. Maybe you can bring some of them along to the next MHG meet, I'm sure they'll be a huge hit :)

    Thanks for bake-o-glide tip, I'll pick one up, I'm going to make the elderflower & eucalyptus decongestant lozenges from James Wong's GYOD and the dandelion and burdock toffee in Hedgerow Medicine is on the list of things to make this year. Love the idea of making different sweet combinations, using different herbs. Thanks for sharing this, it's given me more to think about and added fuel the the fire for making homemade sweeties to give as gifts this year.

    D x

  2. This 'Spring Zingers' look as joyful and lovely as your whole web page. Orange is such an up lifting colour.

    Did you let the sweets dry for a few days?
    I made plantain cough sweets which didn't stick together by letting them dry for 3 days before moving into an airtight jar.

  3. What a lovely idea. I love finding ways to bring more medicine into everyday things. Thanks for hosting such a great blog party!
    Lucinda x

  4. Hi Brigitte, Lucinda, thanks for your comments! I'll leave the sweets out longer to dry next time as you suggest Brigitte. Best wishes, Elizabeth

  5. Hi Debs, bizarre though it may sound, I tried out a recipe for herbal bath sweets using honey this week. They're rubbish in the bath but I think the recipe would adapt well to making edible sweets (they look and feel like toffees) - I'll try & remember to copy it for you before the next MHG meeting. Elizabeth