Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home grown sweeteners

I once saw a recipe for making sugar from sugar beets.  You chopped up the beets, cooked them in water, then used the syrup for sweetening.  You could cook it further and then evaporate the liquid and leave sugar crystals.  If you live in an area that can grow sugar cane then you can press that into liquid.  There's got to be an easier way! 

There are easier ways.  The first are honeybees.  I've just started thinking about bees, not only for the honey but also for the polenization that they provide.  One problem with bees is a son-in-law is allergic to bee stings.  So if no bees, then what?

How about stevia?  Making stevia sweetener is really an easy process.  Stevia is a plant that you can grow in your garden.  According to Burpee a single plant will yield 1/2 pound of dried leaves.  You can buy seeds or established plants from your local nursery.

I have two recipes for making the liquid sweetener, one using vodka and the other water.

Vodka recipe first! (with recipes with alcohol or alcohol free)

1/2 cup dried chopped up leaves.  Don't powder the leaves.  Put the leaves in a glass jar, then pour just enough vodka over them to cover. Put the lid on your jar, shake it up, and let it sit on the counter for a day or day and a half.  Don't let it sit longer than that or it will be bitter.  Filter out the leaves by pouring the extract through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. 

With alcohol in your final product: Transfer the filtered extract into a colored glass bottle and store at room temperature in a dark place for up to 2-4 years.

Without alcohol in your final product:  Gently heat the extract over low-heat for 20-30 minutes. Don't boil it or you will overheat it and destroy the sweet taste. The longer you heat the extract, the thicker and more syrup-like it will become. 15-20 minutes on low heat should be plenty of time.  This cooks out the alcohol!  Transfer into a colored glass bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Water recipe!

Line the bottom of a 1/2 pint canning jar with a coffee filter.  Put a teaspoon of ground (not quite powdered) dried stevia leaves into the jar on top of the filter.  Add two tablespoons of boiling water over the leaves.  Let steep for five minutes.  Pull out the filter with the leaves.  Let drain back into the liquid but don't squeeze the remaining liquid in the filter to get every last drop.  This will make it bitter. 
Once the liquid cools place it in a bottle that has a dropper in the lid.  Refrigerate and use within a week. 

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