Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Going agave: an alternative to sugar

I've been hearing a lot about agave nectar lately and have been eyeballing it in the store for the last few months, but wasn't sure if it was worth purchasing. Basically, agave is more fructose than glucose and, as such, has a relatively low glycemic index which is important if you have special diet considerations.

In addition, the agave nectar products (at least the ones I've seen) are organic and kosher and pretty much give you the sweetness of sugar, but impart none of its own flavor. So, if you like the sweetness of honey, but don't like the way it makes everything taste like honey, then you'll like agave. How do I know this? Well, I had the opportunity to give it a try at my favorite tea bar in Ballard. I was impressed how much it tasted like sugar, went into the solution fairly quickly, but didn't leave an aftertaste or other flavor.

One other cool thing is that it has a long, stable shelf life and will not solidify. It pours quickly even when cold and it blends and dissolves readily in or on all foods. The claim is that it has approximately 1.4 times the sweetening power of white sugar, but I've found that it's more like 1:1.

So, if you are concerned about your consumption of sugar and/or glucose, you might want to give agave syrup a try. And, since it's basil time of the year, I thought I'd throw in a recipe mixing in a flavorful combination, a Basil Gimlet made with agave syrup.

This recipe was adapted from Rye in San Francisco and it is one of their most requested cocktails:

Basil Gimlet

6 fresh basil leaves
3 ounces Gin (I use local Dry Fly or Aviation)
3/4 ounce agave nectar
1 small lime, cut into eighths (or about 1 ounce fresh lime juice)

Method: In a shaker, muddle the fresh basil and the lime pieces. Remove the lime, squeezing out the remaining juice. Add in agave nectar, gin and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.

Enjoy.

Related books:
Baking with Agave Nectar
Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener
BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

25 comments:

Midnightsky Fibers said...

I like agave in tea! I use sugar still for many things (making wine!), but I do like it as an alternative to sugar since I am trying to cut down on it.

Ash said...

I am a big fan of agave. I've found that it's a great replacement in most recipes and nobody notices a difference. When baking with agave I tend to use less than 1 for 1 (probably 3/4 c. in place of sugar) and then reduce the liquids in the recipe by about 1/3

Malva said...

I've been using agave syrup but I'm thinking of phasing it out.

It goes through alot of processing to go from cactus to syrup in a bottle so I'm a bit concerned about its footprint before it even reaches my plate.

Farmer's Daughter said...

My MIL gave me a bottle about a year ago and I've never even opened it... I tend to use local sugar alternatives like honey and maple syrup first. Agave doesn't grow in CT :)

The Mom said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I just bought a bottle and wasn't quite sure how to use it. Thanks!

Cave-Woman said...

Sounds mojito-ish.

Looks yummy!

Going Green Mama said...

I have to ask...where did you find this? I've tried looking for it and have had no luck. Of course, I also live in Indiana...

Jessica said...

Hello. I love your blog. I just thought I'd pass this along just for information. My friend emailed it to me.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/02/Agave-A-Triumph-of-Marketing-over-Truth.aspx

Green Bean said...

We tried agave soda at a local eatery this summer. Truly refreshing without the sickly sweetness of HFCS or even cane sugar sodas.

risa said...

Great stuff -- you can also use it, in moderation, to brighten up the flavor of blanched vegs or sharp-tasting fruits before freezing or preserving.

Malva has a point, though.

Kristijoy said...

I use agave instead of sugar for the few things we don't sweeten with stevia, raw homey or maple syrup, around here, but I have to agree w/ Jessica's link. (Most of it, I haven't researched the growing conditions/processing claims she makes regarding quality/organicness)

I have found the same info in my own research and it is highly processed. Agave doesn't have nectar, it's a syrup made from processing the plant. Really it's just as processed as most cane sugars.

It's the same plant we make tequila from also FYI.

Paintsmile said...

Dr. Mercola is right... They agave you have pictured at the top of this site is not much better for you than HFCS! But all is not lost! There is another manufacturer that doesn't have much Fructose, No Maltose and No sucrose like the other brands of agave. As far as I can tell, they are the only ones tested and proven healthy for people. I found it at www.VolcanicNectar.com. It's really good too!

Thistle said...

I totally just jumped on the agave bandwagon, too! It had been at least two years of suspiciously glancing at it in the health food stores, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and add yet another crazy-hippie-foodstuff to my pantry. I still think raw organic honey has more health benefits, but agave is definitely more tasteless and akin to sugar... perfect replacement for baking.

mollyjade said...

Agave is always touted as safe for diabetics, and I've never been comfortable with that. Fructose raises triglyceride levels, which are a major indicator of heart health. Fructose also may disproportionately raise hemoglobin a1C levels, a major indicator of diabetic health. And this won't be reflected on home glucose monitoring.

Pierrette said...

I love agave we use it in all sorts of stuff it's a staple in our kitchen. I only wish you could find it more often in glass jars as many of the plastic bottles agave comes in have bpa in them.

Robj98168 said...

Big agave fan here- I like to use it because it doesn't cause your blood sugar to spike, being diabetic- that's important
That, and it is the only way I know how to make a simple syurp that is diabetic friendly.

Maeve said...

As cool as it sounds, some of the comments (including the link) have made me conclude to stick to regular sugar for now. Also, I really need to kick all regular sodas from my diet--even my beloved Dr. Pepper.

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

i frickin' love agave. :) i use it in tea, to sweeten plain yogurt, as well as in baking. great stuff!

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

i just read the mercola article. sh*t.

Bekki said...

I've heard the argument so many times now that agave is basically corn syrup in disguise. Well, I can tell ya... I am the canary in the coal mine for corn syrup. I can find it wherever it lurks, because it makes me SICK. I feel horrible after I have even the tiniest bit of corn syrup. And agave never makes me feel sick. I can't even tolerate much maple syrup, rapadura, or raw honey. But I've never yet had enough agave to make myself sick. I don't push it... I'm not crazy... but I've had 3 limeades in a row, made with lime juice, agave, and club soda, and felt fine.

I love agave.

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

a friend of mine pointed out that mercola sells honey on his site, so go figure that he's knocking agave. i think i'm going to stick w/ my old mantra - everything in moderation. :)
also, here's a response from madhava's president - Madhava's Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy Here

April said...

Yes. That was an excellent way to describe agave. Just wish it wasn't so darn expensive.

Becca said...

Basil Gimlets are wonderful... perhaps my new favorite ever. I'm on my second, and it seems as though I am loving everything more right now. Thanks for the awesome drink recipe.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Becca - looks like someone is getting started early :)

Claudia said...

Love, love, love my agave. :) And that gimlet recipe looks luscious, will HAVE to try it!!!!

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