Monday, 4 January 2016

Herbal Lemon Tea from Scratch

Dehydrate your own organic lemons for a beautiful herbal lemon tea.

I love the fragrance of lemons, especially in the winter, when I can't get enough of them.  But a package of Lemon Zinger Teabags has only 20 tea bags, and I knew I could make it better myself.  A small bag of organic lemons later, I have enough to last me for a much longer stretch, and it cost me in the realm of about five dollars, much cheaper than the storebought version.  And so much tastier! It's like drinking a cup of sunshine.

I have the equipment that makes this easy: a mandolin and a food dehydrator.  With this equipment, it takes about twenty minutes to slice and lay out the lemons, and about 24 hours for the dehydration to be complete.  My dehydrator takes only about four lemons at a time, so I had to do this in two batches to get about 60 cups of strong lemon tea.

6 organic lemons

Wash the lemons well.  Because lemons have a bumpy skin, they collect microbes, so give them a very good scrub and rinse.

Patience and time will allow you to slice the lemons with a knife, and you could even dehydrate in the sun, I suppose, but the mandolin allowed me to slice the lemons quickly.  Place the blade to cut slices about 1/8th of an inch thick.

That's about 1/8 inch thick, maybe less.
Working one lemon at a time, be sure to scrape the extra juice into a handy bowl, so nothing is wasted.  The lemon seeds usually slide away from the blade, so plucking them out isn't usually needed.  Discard the seeds.

Place the slices onto each level of the dehydrator.  The lowest levels will be the hottest, so shuffling the trays from time to time is a good idea.  The lemons will burn if left too long, so watch carefully.  I plugged in my dehydrator in the late afternoon, and unplugged it before going to bed.

The next morning I saw that the lemons in the top tray weren't fully dry, so I plugged it back in, and checked the bottom trays and shuffled again.  Already, the bottom trays had darkened lemons, but just enough to caramelize the juices, improving the flavour and colour of the tea.

Just 3 slices will make a lovely cuppa!
For zero bitterness, you can break up the dried slices, keeping the fruit and discarding the peel, but a little bitterness is very healthy, according to Ayurvedic teachings.  I tried the tea both with and without the peels, and prefer the peels.

To make a cup of tea, place 3 small slices into a cup and pour in boiling water.  The tea is steeped once the lemons sink and it smells gorgeous and takes on a pretty colour.  Add a little honey if you like, but the lemons already have their own sugar, so I didn't add sweetener.

Of course you can also add other herbs.  I added a few leaves of home grown mint that I dehydrated in the fall, along with a few dried rose petals and buds.
I got fancy here, adding dried mint and rose petals.

This post begins a new segment to my Indian cooking blog.  Look for a new tab, Big Projects!  

About a year and a half in, I realized that one day I would run out of recipes, and sure enough, I'm still cooking Indian cuisine 300 days out of the year, but I rarely dream up new recipes now.  The new segment will be about long term culinary related projects, such as growing the herbs and vegetables, dehydrating them, fermenting teas, kefirs and vegetables, and so on.

It's very difficult to find a good Holy Basil (Tulsi) tea in these parts, and last year I started the plants from seed, harvested them, dehydrated and made tea that could float you up to heaven.  Alas, I gave away most of the plants in the spring, and my own supply was used up in a few weeks.

A mix of broken lemon, rose petal, bud and mint tea.
I leave for India in the next little while, and will start many more Holy Basil seeds upon returning to Canada.  I intend to grow a lot, realizing how amazing this tea tastes, and how healthy it is for you.  I'll document the process in the new segment, Big Projects,

As far as regular, make it today recipes go, I will continue to create, and I'm sure I'll discover new dishes in India in the next few weeks.  I'll be visiting with at least one of the Bebinka ladies, my Beautiful Granddaughter's paternal grandmother, so who knows what I'll learn?

This jar alone will make about 35 cups of liquid sunshine!  Second batch coming up tonight!

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