How to make Sekanjabin

Now that everyone’s all about shrub, stay ahead of the curve with this ancient cooler

Cucumber, mint, honey, vinegar — sounds like a great salad. Fittingly enough, the Persian vinegar syrup known as sekanjabin is often served as a dip for crisp romaine lettuce leaves. However, it also makes a very refreshing ‘sharbat’ when mixed with sparkling water.

Of the many Iranian syrup-based drinks, sekanjabin is perhaps the most ancient. Originally a simple combination of honey and vinegar, is it now usually flavoured with mint, although orange blossom water, rose water, or other flavourings can also be added. It’s like honey and lemon for when you’re too hot, not too cold!

Other Asian and Middle Eastern countries have their own versions. In Pakistan and northern India, for instance, ‘shikanji’ or ‘shikanjabeen’ is made with lemon juice rather than vinegar and often flavoured with salt and pepper as well as sugar.

Having waited and waited for the Cornish summer to justify my making this hot-weather recipe, I am now tired of waiting! Anyway, it turns out sekanjabin works as a hot drink as well.

There are many different recipes for sekanjabin, but below is a simple one I adapted from LearningHerbs. You can learn more about sekanjabin in this episode of the excellent Gastropod podcast.

A jar of wildflower honey, mint leaves and cider vinegar with cutting board
The three key ingredients: good vinegar, good honey, and fresh mint

Mint Sekanjabin

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup honey (I'm using the raw, unfiltered wildflower honey that goes into Artisan Honey Vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mild vinegar (I’m using cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and roughly chopped
  • Small dash of orange blossom water (if desired)

Method

  1. Combine the honey and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the honey.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar and continue simmering for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint and orange blossom water (if using). Leave to cool completely.
  5. Strain into a clean jar. Keep in the fridge.
  6. To serve, mix with sparkling water to taste. For a Persian twist, serve in a tall glass with some grated cucumber stirred in and garnish with a sprig of mint. For an autumnal twist, mix with boiling water instead — an usual take on honey and lemon.

— Beatrix Swanson

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