My father taught me how to appreciate a fine iced tea--and the importance of having one's own mint bed! My husband and I are so spoiled by Dad's method that we rarely get iced tea in restaurants unless we know it's been fresh-brewed. Sure, we bought the occasional Lipton instant stuff as a child (and all of its derivatives) but you haven't had iced tea until you've had it fresh-brewed, steeped in mint, and chilled to a fine and frosty liquid. It is deceptively simple to make. If you don't have your own mint bed (highly advisable), find a friend that does or splurge in the produce section where you can often find bundles of fresh herbs. [I prefer the bigger, woolier leafed 'Apple Mint' variety.]
Dad always made his tea in an old 1940s Robinson Ransbottom pitcher, dark green with a hobnail design. I still have that pitcher but I can't use it because it has some hairline cracks and to pour boiling water in it would likely destroy it. So it sits on my shelf with many other Robinson Ransbottom relics, a pottery company that closed its doors in Roseville, Ohio earlier this year after 100 years of manufacture. He got the pitcher from his grandmother next door in Akron, Mary Manton, who married a Robinson and thus was fortunate to stock her kitchen with a variety of yellowware, pitchers, crocks and other items from the company. Through my father, I have a few pieces from her collection--considered utilitarian kitchen stuff in its day--and have added extensively to it in the past ten years.
Here is the recipe for these last days of summer and I "blog" it in honor of what would have been my Dad's 69th birthday on Sunday, September 4. My husband loves it (and even my children--we have to watch that as they have their own natural caffineation!) and I make some every day or so right up until apple cider season at Tenney Farms in Antrim (which, if you haven't tried it, is autumn ambrosia of the Gods--and non-pasteurized, the best!). Remember, this is all tea--not the syrupy "Sweet Tea" served regularly in the South:
DAD's ICED TEA
- 4 quart-sized Lipton tea bags (we bought a lot on our last trip South) or 16 individual-sized bags (Tetley is also good)
- 4 individual tea bags of your choice (this is my variation on Dad's theme--I often use 100% rosehip tea or Celestial Seasons "Cold Brew" Lemon-flavored tea)
- 4 foot-long sprigs of apple mint (check for bugs! no need to wash, unless you spray your garden)
- 1 half-gallon pottery pitcher
- 2 quarts boiled water (a full kettle)
Place bags at bottom of pitcher (remove all strings and paper tags). Add mint sprigs and boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes.
Remove tea bags (and mint, if desired, or you can leave that in) carefully with tongs but be careful not to squeeze tea bags (this can impart a bitter flavor). Pour into a sturdy plastic 1-gallon 'bottle' (I use old apple juice bottles that have the thicker plastic). Brew will reach half-way up the side: top off with clear, cool tap water.
Chill until iced cold or serve immediately on ice, with a mint sprig. Enjoy!
VARIATIONS: You can always use decaffineated tea bags, if desired. For those who like sweet tea, you can add sugar or honey to taste while brew is still warm (before adding cool water)--we don't. You can also add lemon slices while brewing (we add later). My friend Edie told me this year about a wonderful herbal powder called STEVIA (available in health food stores or at Trader Joe's). I don't know much about it except that a small amount goes a long way and that it tastes sweet! I sometimes use a pinch in a glass of tea.