Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sugar-Free Peppermint Tea from Scratch

Fresh mint sprigs are the key to brewing your own homemade fresh mint tea from scratch. I just picked a handful of tea-mint (shown in picture above) from our yard to make yet another batch of a favorite summer cool-down drink. The temperature has been approaching 90-degrees here in Cleveland the past few days, and I go through about a gallon of iced mint tea every 2 or 3 days.

After picking the mint (above), I just get out a 5-quart pot and fill it with a gallon of water. I rinse off the mint leaves and sprigs a bit (lately, a requirement since there is so much tree-pollen on everything outside), and then toss them into the pot (the whole sprigs -- I don't waste time plucking leaves from the plant).

I then bring the water and mint to a boil, and allow the mint to remain at a light boil for about 5 minutes, stirring the mint leaves every so often. I do this to release the mint flavor, but also to kill any tiny little bugs or microbes that may be left on the mint after I've rinsed it. Next, I turn off the heat, and allow the mint to steep another 10 minutes. After that, I just remove the sprigs from the water using a strainer-spoon and discard them (this is also why I leave the sprigs intact -- removing them from the water is so easy compared to removing a whole bunch of individual leaves).

While it is still warm, the tea can be sweetened. I have lately been experimenting with sugar-free recipes (in addition to gluten-free recipes), and purchased some Xylitol (bag of it shown below). Xylitol is a sweetener used in things like Trident gum.

The Xylitol is gluten-free (of course, or I wouldn't use it), and it dissolves readily in liquids just like sugar. I find the taste to be quite similar to sugar also. And, it's always nice to know that when I am drinking so much of this sweetened mint tea, that I am not subject to tooth-decay: in fact, Xylitol has been shown to be a proven cavity fighter! If that wasn't good enough, it has zero net carbs, and is safe for use by diabetics and hypoglycemics (it has a Glycemic Index of only 7 - which is super low).

Finally, after my tea is sweetened to my liking, I simply let it cool down to close to room temperature and then funnel it into a gallon water-jug and refrigerate for future use.

I still have not baked any gluten-free desserts with the Xylitol, but I hope to soon. It can't be used to replace sugar in baked goods that rise using yeast (since, it will not "feed" the yeast properly), and it doesn't crystallize the same as sugar when heated, so you can't make hard candy from it. But, I think it has potential for other desserts where I can substitute part of the sugar. According to the label on the bag, it is recommended that you ramp up your Xylitol consumption gradually over a few weeks for proper (intestinal) tolerance adjustment. And, you can not feed it to your pets, since it can be toxic to them (note: this includes chewing gum sweetened with Xylitol -- don't give it to your dog!)

If you have any interest in xylitol, I found mine online here: World Health Depot (just search for Xylitol, and you'll get a list of items including the granules I pictured above). I get Spry brand chewing gum from this same place (it's Xylitol sweetened too).

So, there you have it. Sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free peppermint tea just in time for summer!


Dianne said...

Brilliant post Mike! I'm just starting to go down the road of reduced sugar levels in my diet, so this is really well timed for me. I'll have to see what is available over here!


Shannon said...

Yum! I love peppermint tea. I have been trying to drink it more lately since it is soothing to the digestive system. My dad is growing peppermint in his garden. I will have to steal a bunch the next time I am out there!

Mike Eberhart said...

Shannon - I doubt your dad will mind you grabbing some mint next time you are there... this stuff grows like weeds. In fact, if you have a place to grow a bit, just take a couple plants with the roots intact home with you, and put them into the ground. In no time, you'll have a peppermint patch of your own.
Be warned: it is rather invasive and really spreads quickly, which is great if you want a lot of mint tea or mint for baking with (e.g., I grind the fresh mint leaves up into chocolate tortes sometimes for a French-mint effect).

Dianne - I'd guess the UK will have Xylitol available. Certainly things like Splenda must be somewhere close at hand. Best wishes!

Slacker Mom (aka Mrs. GF) said...

Great post...I will be making herb garden is just coming together now......

Tracy said...

Great post! I love mint tea, and I also have a mint-growing dad I can hit up.

Another good sweetener (for baking, mainly) is Erythritol, derived from corn. It's a sugar alcohol, but causes no gastro issues and is naturally found in pears, melons and grapes as well as corn. It does have a cooling effect, and is best used in conjunction with other sweeteners (Splenda, stevia etc)

Mike Eberhart said...

Tracey - thanks for that info. I am not familiar with that particular sweetener, but I surely understand it in concept. There are quite a few of these "sugar alcohols" out there to choose from, and it's nice having more options.

Mrs GF - enjoy that tea! If your garden is like ours, our mint is growing 2 or 3 inches taller each day. Makes for a lot of peppermint :)