You know that summer begins when you start to see these huge juicy and juicy ruby red strawberries start to fill the product bins, farm stalls and signs that appear for "picking" fields across the country! They are not quite there in perfection again, a few more weeks for these beauties, but they work perfectly well for sweet teas and other things, frozen and added to cool a drink without diluting it too much. You can mash them with your straws and mix them to flavor the tea, or enjoy them whole when you get to the bottom! If you are a tea purist like my husband, you can leave them aside and enjoy the flavor of the sweet tea itself. You can also add lemon wedges or wedges and a sprig or two of fresh mint, but none of us care about the lemon or mint in our tea. If you like it "sparkly", you wouldn't believe how one or two splashes of ginger ale or Sprite are also in tea! And of course, there is always "half and half" too. Half sweet tea and half lemonade. But no matter how you serve it, starting with a good basic tea recipe is key.
Many people claim to make good sweet tea, but trust me, I come from a very long line of sweet tea drinkers and I make it really good! When I was a child, my great aunt Lola from southern Illinois always made us a special glass with lots of sugar! So much so, there would be a deep regulation of 1/2 “at the bottom of the window! And I loved it! But since then I have found a much better way to incorporate the sugar so that it dissolves completely. Eating sugar when you were a kid was fun, but not so much when you get older! LOL! A little rude. So take out the summer pitcher, fill up on tea bags and enjoy lots of great glasses of tea this summer! It’s kind of sweet, I’m warning you, so make enough! You will drink 2 glasses at a time one after the other on a hot day! 😉 Take advantage and have a wonderful day everyone!
GOOD OL ’SOUTHERN SWEET TEA with FROZEN STRAWBERRIES
Makes a 3 quart pitcher
3 cups of boiling water
1/2 tsp. baking soda, (reduces acidity and bitter aftertaste)
9 tea bags, removed from their small envelopes
2 cups of sugar
cold water to fill
6-8 whole frozen strawberries and 3-4 ice cubes per glass
Fill a large Pyrex or Anchor glass pitcher with 3 cups of water. Microwave until boiling. My microwave takes exactly 5 minutes. Carefully remove and place on a warm pad or cutting board. Stir in the baking soda using the measuring spoon to stir until dissolved. *Pay attention. Steam is hotter than fire and can really burn you. Once the baking soda is mixed, while the water is swirling, add tea bags holding the tops so that they rotate and the strings twist, making it easier to hold and remove later. Push and tuck the tea bags into hot water using the measuring spoon, and adjust them so that they are all tucked away and have some room. Cover with a small plate and let steep for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes have passed, remove the plate and with a slotted spoon, remove the tea bags by pressing the bags lightly against the side to remove the excess water in the plate that you used to cover, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. It only takes 30 seconds of agitation. (You will know when you no longer feel any grains at the bottom of the measuring pitcher.) * If you are using a glass pitcher, fill the pitcher about 1/3 of the way first with cold tap water to avoid crack or break your launcher! Adding hot liquid to a glass pitcher is a no-no! THEN slowly pour your sweetened tea concentrate into the pitcher. Finally, add more cold water to fill up to 3 liters. Stir and refrigerate until cool. Serve over a glass filled with ice and frozen strawberries (or raspberries if you prefer).
* To reduce the sugar content, you can use 1 cup Splenda + 1/2 cup sugar for the 2 cups of sugar in the recipe.