Right now my mom’s garden is overflowing with herbs, just waiting to be harvested. So I thought I would try making some pretty ice cubes as well as some herb infused water and lemonade to get some of those herbs off her hands. There’s just something about sipping water with pretty ice cubes that makes it so much better. And we all need to be drinking more water – adding flavor makes water much more appealing and helps to up my water intake!
(I also had a little bit of fruit ready to be used up, so I froze some of that in ice cubes too). Although I would normally think of pretty ice cubes and infused drinks as spring and early summer drinks, fresh herbs are in abundance here so we’ll drink pretty for these last remaining weeks of summer! And you definitely need to make some of this fresh squeezed lemonade for a picnic this weekend (wow – it’s Labor Day already?!!), it’s sooo good!
So here’s a list of the herbs my mom & I gathered:
- lemon balm
Any of these would work well in water or lemonade (although obviously lemon balm in lemonade won’t really be noticeable!). If you want the flavor of your herb to be noticeable in the drink, you’ll need to add herbs to the drink, not just drop in ice cubes. The ice cubes are really more just for looks, it takes a while for the ice to melt down and the herb to actually add any flavor.
To make herb infused drinks: place herbs in a pitcher or bottle and very gently mash the leaves (this will help release the extract and oils), add water and let sit for a few hours or overnight. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the drink will be.
There’s all sorts of tips and strategies out there for freezing things in ice cubes. Most tips say to get the clearest ice cube possible, use distilled water and boil it twice before freezing. I kept forgetting to buy distilled water and as this was just a fun experiment for me, I went ahead and used plain old tap water. I did boil it twice though. I also read that freezing in layers would help too, so I placed a tiny bit of water in the tray, then placed in my herbs (face down for the ones that have a “face”), and then froze that. Once that layer was frozen, I added another layer of water and froze that. Then I did a third and final layer…I was going to add extra herbs to the top layer, so that herbs could be seen from both sides, but I couldn’t see through my ice to tell which herb was in which place (oops!). I felt like the extra layers just added more cloudiness to my ice cubes, but that could be because I didn’t use distilled water. And honestly, unless I was doing this for some special party, I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble of buying distilled water and freezing in layers. I’ll just stick to boiled tap water and freezing the ice cube all at once. (I used this ice cube trayto get the square cubes for those wanting to know. The glass bottles are from Wegmans – my local grocery store, you can find similar bottles on Amazon if you can’t find them in a local store.)
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 cups water
lemon zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice* (you’ll probably need 6-8 lemons for this)
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water, sugar and the lemon zest. Bring to a gentle boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature, strain into a jar, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Strain pulp from lemon juice if desired (definitely remove the seeds!). In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.
If adding herbs, you can either add them to the simple syrup you make in the first step, just add them in with the lemon zest, or you can make the lemonade and then gently mash the leaves of the herb you’re using and add to the pitcher – just be sure to let it sit for a few hours to let the flavor infuse.
Adapted from All Recipes
*A tip I learned for getting the most juice out of your lemons:: before slicing, microwave them for about 20 seconds, let them cool for about 30 seconds, then roll them on the counter while applying gentle pressure.
Another infused drink to try is this delicious Rosemary Rhubarb Lemonade!
Here’s to savoring every last drop of summer!