This last spring I decided to try growing stevia and then see if I could process it into a useable product, rather than buy the “stuff” at the stores. If you want to know why – you can read this article HERE. The project began easily enough. In other words – I got two of the three stevia seeds I planted to germinate! They didn’t seem to mind being transplanted into the garden and grew fairly well in the beginning. To tell you the truth – I almost forgot about those sweet little plants because they were almost completely engulfed by the summer squash! In fact, I even stepped on one of them when I was trying to harvest the zucchini – but with a bit of neglect, they grew anyway! Not into huge plants, mind you, but they did grow!
- Stevia seedling, just transplanted into the garden. April 28, 2013
- Stevia plant, starting to grow a bit, but shaded by the zucchini! June 3, 2013
- Growing a bit more, but still in the shade of the zucchini. June 30, 2013
- Aaahhhhh. No more zucchini, finally growing! October 4, 2013
Note to self – don’t plant the stevia near squash next year. Actually, I guess I shouldn’t plant the stevia near anything that will shade it because stevia is actually a sun loving plant! But, in the end, both of the plants survived and I decided to harvest them on Tuesday, October 22nd. It sounded like as good a day as any.
I had read that stevia is actually a perennial in warmer climates and will survive over the winter in a sunny window. So, I harvested the stems and left about 6-8 inches on the two plants, then transferred them into a pot that I had filled with some of my earthworm soil. That earthworm soil is like Miracle Grow on caffeine. Anything I have planted with the stuff is healthy and grows quite quickly! If you would like to read about my earthworm soil farm, click HERE.
With the plants cut back and replanted into a pot, now sitting in a sunny window, it was time to turn my attention to the actual making of the stevia syrup!
I stripped the leaves off the branches of stevia, gently washed the leaves in cold water, then spread them out on a couple of cookie sheets to dry in a warm (about 110 degrees) oven overnight. With the leaves nice and crispy, I followed the instructions I found HERE. Which means I had to buy some vodka – which isn’t something I keep around the house on a normal basis. Well, actually, I do have some old stuff in my cupboard, but I think I will have to throw it out. Why? Because my now grown sons have recently fessed up that when they were teenagers, they would take a sip or two (maybe
three) from the liquor bottles my husband and I had stocked in the cupboard, and then put water in the bottles so we wouldn’t know that any was missing! That was pretty smart because they knew hubby and I aren’t big drinkers of hard liquor and would probably never know the difference! We didn’t! In fact, those bottles of hard liquor are still sitting on the shelf in our cupboard fifteen years later!
I guess it’s too late to discipline them, but they have kids of their own now, and paybacks are coming! 🙂
So, off to my local grocery store I went. I was amazed to see that there were quite a few choices for vodka, flavored and unflavored, starting at $5.99 a bottle for the cheapest stuff up to over $40 for the higher-end stuff. There was no way I was going to spend $40 for a bottle of vodka, just to steep my stevia! I ended up buying the middle of the road, common brand-name vodka.
The instructions were simple enough: place the dried leaves into a clean jar, pour in enough vodka to cover, place a lid on the jar and shake. Then leave the jar on the kitchen counter for 24 to 36 hours, shaking once in a while, but never letting it steep more than 36 hours or it could get bitter. I decided I would go “middle of the road” and let it steep for 30 hours.
Okay – now comes the hard part. You are supposed to strain the leaves out – easy enough – but then simmer the vodka without letting it boil – which thickens the liquid and neutralizes the alcohol! Okay, I’m not the best cook, but for some reason I have always thought simmering was slow boiling! So, luckily my new stove has a setting called simmer, so I suppose that should be about right. I have read some articles about people not liking the taste of this method of extracting the sweetness out of stevia because it tastes “green”. Well, after about 1/2 hour I could see some particulates forming at the bottom of the pot, which I think I can assume is the chlorophyll because the liquid isn’t as green as it was before. Maybe this is the part that tastes “green”? So, I thought, perhaps if I can decant the liquid without the particulates in it, it might not taste as “green”? Or (the light bulb just lit) perhaps I can strain the liquid through a coffee filter!!! So, that’s what I did. I don’t know if I should have, but I did. So there!
- These are the blue bottles I bought at Greenals! Supposedly a tincture (or stevia syrup, in this case) is not supposed to be exposed to light, hence the dark tinted bottles.
- This is the color of the liquid strained from the jar with the stevia leaves and vodka. I was actually a beautiful green color. So, I set the stove temperature to "simmer" and came back every few minutes to stir.
- After about 1/2 hour a green powdery precipitate began to form in the bottom of the pan. I assume this was the chlorophyll separating out of the liquid, but I'm not sure. Maybe this is what caused the "green" taste I have heard others complain of when they make their own stevia syrup.
- So, since I don't like green stuff in my syrup, I decided to filter it out with an unbleached coffee filter. The resulting liquid was now a clear amber color! Success! I did pour it back into the pan to thicken up just a bit more, maybe another 10 minutes.
- The final result of this extraction process was about 3-1/2 ounces of the stevia syrup, which filled - well - 3 and 1/2 one ounce jars! The jars will now reside on the door of my refrigerator and will last, from what I have read, three months - if we haven't used it all by then!
I ordered the beautiful blue jars with built in droppers from a company called Greenals through Amazon. All six jars were less than $10.00! Including shipping! I am certainly going to order more of these for storing essential oils, once I learn how to make my own, but for now, I am going to keep the stevia syrup in these bottles. Apparently you are supposed to protect the stevia syrup from light.
So, I made some coffee to test it out. Wow. Holy Cow! Geeze Louise! This stuff is sweet. And good! Not really “green” tasting at all! Of course, coffee has a pretty strong flavor in itself. I will have to try using this sweetener in other things before I can make a final judgement, so right now the jury is still out, but at this point I think I like it! Bring on the recipes!
Thank you for your comments, suggestions and questions – I love them all and will try to answer each and every one!
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