Small token gifts are needed almost daily around the holidays. For coworkers, the mailman, or a hostess, it’s nice to have a little treat at the ready. A bottle of wine or a plant can be nice, but something homemade from the garden is even better. Especially if the giftee can turn around and use it during his or her holiday celebrations. That’s why infused sugars are the perfect do-it-yourself gift.
To make an infused sugar, just start with organic sugar and a dried herb or spice. It’s important not to let moisture get into the mixture, to avoid clumping the sugar. Combine them in an airtight container in approximately a 2:1 ratio of sugar to spice or herb. After about 2 weeks, the sugar will be infused, and it will keep well for at least 3 months. So make it after Thanksgiving, and it’ll be ready for December gifting.
Herbs and Spices
Many herbs and spices infuse a pleasant flavor into sugar. Some, like mint or vanilla, are obvious. Others, like cayenne, can be fun and surprising. Keep giftees in mind when choosing an infusion—are they adventurous in the kitchen, or would they just prefer a sweet treat? It’s also extra-special if the herbs come from a backyard garden, so an excess of lavender can kickstart infusing for the season.
A simple organic white sugar will infuse with the most flavor and will create the easiest combinations. If there isn’t time to test the final product, white sugar is ideal. Playing with flavors is fun, however, and brown sugars or natural cane sugars will take on a completely different flavor profile with infusions like cinnamon or vanilla.
Any clean, airtight jar will allow the sugar to infuse and stay fresh, so have fun picking containers. Head to the local thrift shop or craft store. Or save up glass food-storage jars throughout the year. Just be sure to sanitize and completely dry the jars before infusing.
Finish each container with some ribbon and a gift tag. Add some suggestions for using the sugar to make holiday baking a little easier. Larger infusions should be sifted out before consuming, so make sure to note that on the tag. But any herb or spice that is small enough to go through a sieve is fine to leave in for cooking. A gift of infused sugar is a thoughtful way to make the holidays sweeter for everyone.
Dried Herbs and Spices We Love
- Dried rosebuds
- Vanilla beans
- Cinnamon chips
- Orange peel
Ideas for Using Infused Sugars
- Sprinkle on sugar cookies.
- Rim a cocktail glass.
- Sweeten coffee or tea.
- Top creme brulee and caramelize.
- Sprinkle on fresh fruit.
- Add to French toast egg dip.
- Fold into cookie, muffin, cupcake, or bread batter.
Originally published in Organic Gardening Magazine December/January 2014.