The first really chilly weekend is upon us up here in Southwest Michigan, and I’m ready for some warming foods. Last Sunday I stocked up on all the local produce I could find – golden pears, apples, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I love cooking cinnamon-laced fruit compote when it’s cold, sipping on spicy chai tea and cooking spicy and warming soups.
I donned a jacket and took Ashok for a walk after dinner. I got the craving for some homemade chai to take the chill off when I got back. Last winter I purchased the spices from Penzeys and only made it a couple times before summer. I googled a good recipe, pulled out my box of spices and started cooking.
My favorite way to make chai is the traditional Indian way. You boil the tea, spices, sugar and whole milk together on the stove. It is so creamy and delicious that I can’t help but drink it in one day. But it’s too much fat in several cups of whole milk for one day, and I truly don’t do well on that much caffeine. I save that for special occasions. With a concentrate, I can sweeten and add milk and tea later. It’s not quite as addicting, but it’s really good.
So here’s the recipe I used last night. But you adjust the spices however you want, and there are plenty of versions on the internet. The great thing about chai is you can adjust the heat or sweetness by changing up the kind or quantity of spices. Use orange peel for a citrus scent or chili powder for a kick in the butt!
- 20 Black Peppercorns
- 4 Star Anise (Penzey’s)
- 40 cardamom pods
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon dried ginger pieces (Penzey’s)
- 2 sticks cinnamon (ceylon is my choice from Penzey’s)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 6 cups water
- Sugar, honey or sweetener of your choice.
- Milk of your choice
- Vanilla extract
- Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (or a flat knife) and crack or grind the spices. (I put all the spices in my KitchenAid spice grinder except for the cinnamon. Note: If you need one, I can get you a deal. Send me an email!)
- Break the cinnamon into small pieces.
- Stir the spices over low heat in a dry pan until they become aromatic. Don’t burn them! They are too expensive. But man do they make the kitchen smell good.
- Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Let it sit with the lid on for about an hour just for good measure.
- Strain out the spices with a strainer and use the concentrate right away or put it in the fridge for later use.
- Optional: You can also add sugar or honey at this time so it melts.
When making tea:
- Measure out about 3/4 mug or coffee cup of chai concentrate and heat water enough to steep green or black tea.
- Steep black or green tea bag (or more for stronger tea).
- Top with your choice of milk. I LOVE homemade almond milk in chai.
- Add a couple drops of vanilla and sweetener of your choice. Because I can’t really do much sugar, I use monkfruit drops or stevia.