Okay, I’ll confess that I don’t eat a lot of sugar anymore….but….I used to LOVE my sugar! In my tea, coffee, iced tea, in cereals, on my winter squash and sweet potatoes. I unabashedly had a love affair going on with the sweet stuff. Today, I try to avoid it but when I do indulge, it’s a real indulgence. (No sugar in my coffee, but I would love a sliver of sweet tater pie, thanks!) If we choose to indulge, shouldn’t it be of the best quality and the most amazing flavor possible? That’s my thinking.
Now our grannies have been making infused sugar for ages…not only did it flavor the sugar, it also dried and preserved whatever they added TO the sugar. Bonus. And you know how I love bonuses! Infused sugar is a simple way to add a kick of flavor to everyday foods, use food scraps (such as citrus peels) to reduce waste and it’s also a great, frugal gift that the giftee will appreciate every time they use it! As with most edibles, there’s a ton of room here for personalization, so if these recipes sound a little meh to you, use your imagination to create blends you will love!
How To Use Infused Sugars
Oh my word, you can use infused sugars anywhere and in anything! Imagine lemon-infused sugar in your hot tea, lavender infused sugar in your sweet tea, a chili-lime infusion for flavoring ribs or a pork loin, a cayenne infusion for dusting your hot cocoa (trust me!) or an orange-vanilla bourbon infusion to glaze a ham or to flavor whipped cream for a pound cake. You could also sprinkle it on top of pancakes or oatmeal, sweeten your coffee, dust fresh fruit with it or add it to your buttered toast. Doesn’t that sound amazing?! I gotta tell you, this is making me rethink the whole sugar-free diet thing lol.
What You Need To Make Infused Sugars
So as I stated above, the sky is the limit when it comes to infusions, but there are a few rules. No, not rules, guidelines. There are a few guidelines.
- Whenever possible, buy organic sugar. I know sometimes it feels like you’re being beat over the head with this whole organic thing, but I think in terms of sugar, it’s important to use the best quality product, even if that means spending an extra dollar or two. With something as elemental as flavored sugar, the difference in taste really will shine through. Now you CAN use plain old white beet sugar, but brown sugar, cane sugar or even coconut sugar will yield the most interesting flavors, so I highly encourage them!
- As much as possible, use dried herbs, flowers, citrus or flavorings. To yield the best results, you need to use the driest ingredients possible. It’s not a deal breaker, BUT any moisture you add can create hard lumps and slow the infusion process, so drier is better!
- To store the finished product, you need a glass container with a tight-fitting, sealed lid. No plastic containers please, as it can give an undesirable flavor to the sugar. I love the old bale-top storage jars, but for gifting, a simple jelly jar with a 2-piece lid works great.
How To Make Infused Sugars
This is the easy part, friends! To make infused sugar, simply combine the flavorings with the sugar, seal tightly and let it sit for a couple weeks so that the flavor is spread throughout the sugar. Now there is an exception and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, some simple recipes!
Vanilla sugar: Cover 1 vanilla bean with 1 cup of sugar. Seal tightly in a jar.
Espresso sugar: Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of crushed instant coffee granules. Seal tightly in a jar.
Lavender/floral sugar: Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of dried culinary flowers (lavender, rosebuds, chamomile, etc). Seal tightly in a jar.
Cinnamon sugar: Cover 1-2 cinnamon sticks with 1 cup of sugar. Seal tightly.
Pumpkin spice sugar: Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground ginger. Seal tightly.
Cayenne sugar: Combine 1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne with 1 cup of sugar. Seal tightly.
Now we’re going to branch off and make a few sugars using fresh, liquid ingredients. The procedure isn’t that different, but you have to leave the jar sitting open at least overnight so that moisture from the ingredients can evaporate. If you don’t, you’ll have some seriously lumpy sugar! Before you seal these sugars in jars, stir them and check for moisture. If the sugar feels moist, let them sit opened for another 12-24 hours.
Citrus lime sugar: Combine 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime zest. Mix thoroughly then let sit opened overnight for best results.
Citrus vanilla bourbon: Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of fresh orange zest, 1/2 vanilla bean and 1/2 teaspoon bourbon. Shake thoroughly to combine then let sit opened overnight.
But don’t stop there! Imagine your favorite liquors (especially rum and amaretto) or citrus infused into sugar to garnish drinks. Any combination of spices (cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg) will give a warm, holiday flavor to any drink or even better, sprinkled over a dessert. Brown sugar, sea salt and pungent spices such as black pepper, cayenne, chili and cumin would make an incredible dry rub for a bbq! Any combination of sweet, spicy and pungent that suits your taste buds is perfect by me!
Again, if you plan on gifting these, think presentation. Use a small, air-tight container; no Gladware, unless the recipient really likes Gladware, whatever, but be sure the seal is tight or you’ll end up with one giant sugar cube. Go to Pinterest for some cute downloadable labels and accessorize with items you think may go along with your sugars: some good quality loose leaf tea, your favorite cocoa, a homemade sugar cookie mix, barbeque accessories or whatever floats the recipient’s boat. I guarantee this will be a handmade gift somebody is going to love!