I picked up this technique years ago when I decided I wanted to serve mint juleps at a Kentucky Derby party. There are several ways to make a mint julep, but the one I settled on involved infusing a simple syrup with mint (purists will say this is wrong wrong wrong, but I don’t care). I liked the result so much that I decided to incorporate it into my grasshopper whoopie pies. I will focus on using mint in this tutorial, but you could easily replace the mint with citrus peel, lavender buds, cinnamon sticks, ginger, or anything else your heart desires. The process will be essentially the same.
To begin, place your mint sprigs in a heat-proof bowl. (Pyrex glass storage containers with lids are excellent for this purpose.) Gently crush the mint with the back of a spoon to help release its essential oils. If you are doing this with citrus peels, you may want to make some cuts in them for the same purpose.
Next, place equal parts water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. For the task at hand, I used 1/2 cup of each to infuse with 6 sprigs of mint. Stir the water and sugar together and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes. DO NOT stir. If you do, the sugar may crystallize on the side of the pan and burn.
After the 5 minutes are up, remove the syrup from the heat and pour it immediately over the mint leaves.
Stir them to distribute the mint throughout the syrup. Allow this mixture to cool on the counter until it is lukewarm or cooler. Once it is cool enough, cover the bowl (this is where the Pyrex with lids come in handy) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. The longer you let this sit, the stronger your mint flavor will become.
When you are ready to use your syrup, strain it through a fine metal sieve and discard the mint leaves. This is great for drinks, adding flavors to baked goods, and pouring on things to eat (or straight out of the bowl if you’re an animal like I am).
What flavors will you be infusing into your syrups?