You know summer is kicking off when you start seeing those huge, lusciously juicy, ruby red strawberries start filling the produce bins, farm stands, and signs popping up for “u-pick” fields across the country! These aren’t quite there in perfection yet, just a few weeks longer for those beauties, but they work perfectly well for sweet teas and other things, frozen, and added to chill a drink without watering it down too much. You can mash them up with your straws and stir them in to flavor the tea, or enjoy them whole when you get to the bottom! If you’re a tea purist like my hubby, you can leave them out all together and just enjoy the flavor of the sweet tea itself. You can also add slices or wedges of lemon and a sprig or two of fresh mint, but neither of us care for lemon or mint in our tea. If you like it “sparkly”, you would not believe how good a splash or two of ginger ale or Sprite is in tea, also! And of course, there’s always “half ‘n half”, too. Half sweet tea and half lemonade. But no matter how you serve it, starting with a good basic tea recipe is the key.
A lot of people claim to make good sweet tea, but, trust me on this, I come from a very long line of sweet tea drinkers and I really do make it goooood! When I was a kid, my Great Aunt Lola from southern Illinois used to always make us each a special glass with lots of sugar in it! So much so, there’d be a 1/2″ deep settlement of it on the bottom of the glass! And I loved it! But I have since come up with a much better way to incorporate the sugar so it completely dissolves. Eating sugar when you were a kid was fun, but not so much when you get older! LOL! Kinda gritty gross. So break out the summer pitcher, stock up on tea bags and enjoy many, many tall glasses of tea this summer! It’s some kind o’ sweet, I’ll warn ya, so make enough! You’ll down 2 glasses at a time one after the other on a hot day! 😉 Enjoy, and have a wonderful day all!
GOOD OL’ SOUTHERN SWEET TEA with FROZEN STRAWBERRIES
Makes one 3 quart pitcher
3 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp. baking soda, (reduces acidity and the bitter after-taste)
9 tea bags, removed from their little envelopes
2 cups sugar
cold water to fill
6-8 whole frozen strawberries and 3-4 ice cubes per glass
Fill large Pyrex or Anchor glass measuring pitcher with 3 cups water. Microwave until just boiling. My microwave takes 5 minutes exactly. Carefully remove and set on a hot pad or cutting board. Stir in baking soda using the measuring spoon to stir with until dissolved. *Be careful. Steam is hotter than fire and can really burn you. After baking soda is stirred in, while water is swirling, add tea bags holding the tops so they spin and the strings twist up making it easier to hold and remove later. Poke and tuck tea bags down into hot water using the measuring spoon still, and adjust so they are all nestled and have a little room. Cover with a little plate and let steep for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes is up, remove plate and with a slotted spoon, remove tea bags lightly pressing bags against side to remove excess water to plate you used to cover with, and stir in sugar until dissolved. This only takes about 30 seconds of stirring. (You’ll know when you don’t feel any grains on the bottom of the measuring pitcher anymore.) *If using a glass pitcher, fill pitcher about 1/3 of the way first with cold tap water to prevent cracking or breaking your pitcher! Adding hot liquid to a glass pitcher is a no-no! THEN pour your sweet tea concentrate into the pitcher slowly. Lastly, add more cold water to fill to 3 quarts. Stir and refrigerate until chilled. Serve over glass filled with ice and frozen strawberries (or raspberries if preferred.) Enjoy!
*To cut the sugar content, you can sub 1 cup Splenda + 1/2 cup sugar for the 2 cups sugar in the recipe.