I've recently found out that some friends of mine (who happen to be from below the Mason-Dixon Line) did not know how to make sweet tea. Whenever they come over I make certain I have 2 gallons at a minimum, because we go through it. When we go see them, they have the Publix variety. So I had to ask...do you know how to make sweet tea...I was met with a blank stare. So, here we go:
Step 1: Fixins
For the purposes of this post I may lapse into some southern-isms, like Fixins. The main ingredients are:
Tea Bags - (I use two family sized, I prefer the brand shown but I do not work for them nor receive compensation for my preferences)
Sugar - more on how much later, but between 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups
Water - making a Gallon so...a gallon of water but part is brewed, part is ice, you will see as we go.
As for the utensils:
A Gallon sized Pitcher
Tea Kettle or large pot with a good kid
Ladle or long handled stirrin stick
Step 2: Boiling the Water
I fill my kettle up as full as possible. Just about 2 quarts or a half gallon. Sit back and wait till boiling nicely
Step 3: The Sugar
While waiting for the water, I put the sugar into the pitcher. Here is the main difference between Southern Style and Northern Sweet Tea. In the south we sweeten the tea while it's still hot. In the north, they ask if you'd like add sugar when they bring it to you in ice water...so you can suck granules of sugar up through your straw with your tea...but I digress.
On sugar, this recipe is making a Gallon. I have found that at least a cup but no more than a 1 1/2 cups makes for a relatively sweet, without being quite McDonald's sweet, tea. I use between 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups.
Step 4: Once Boiling
Once the water reaches the boiling stage you should carefully pour enough water to cover the sugar into the pitcher (again, in the south we sweeten while hot). Stir to get the sugar started melting, don't become too concerned if you have a few stragglers, once we add the steeped tea the rest will become one with the tea.
Now it's time to add the two tea bags to your hot water. I let mine steep for at least 12 1/2 minutes. Any less and I find it to be too weak. Much longer than 13-14 and I find it too strong. Much like the sugar, though, this is a personal taste preference.
Step 5: After Steeping
If you've used a pot it will be fairly easy to remove the tea bags. If you have a kettle like mine please be careful to not break the bags open. If you do, a strainer or coffee filter can do the trick. Then just dump into the sugar water.
Step 6: Finishing It Off
What we've basically made is a tea concentrate. From this point you can just add cold water and let it cool over time. I use a 32 ounce to add two full cups of ice to cool it off a bit and then fill to the gallon mark on the pitcher.
And inside of 20 minutes you have a gallon of your very own Southern Style Sweet Tea!