Thursday, June 26, 2014

Simple Syrup

As it gets warmer, I start to think about all the cold drinks I can make.  It's easier to open a bottle, but way too sugary.  My cousin showed me how to make Southern Sweet Tea, and I thought she should have frozen the tea into a popsicle, it was so sweet.

So how do you sweeten an iced drink just to your liking?  Stirring in sugar doesn't work because it never dissolves all the way.  You end up with a pile of it at the bottom.

Simple Syrup to the rescue!  This versatile staple can be used to moisten cakes before icing, as a dressing for fruit salad, and of course in any drink you can name.  It takes barely five minutes to prepare, is shelf-stable, and keeps pretty much indefinitely when covered because it contains only sugar and water which has been boiled.  You can put it in any old ketchup bottle from the dollar store and have it ready at a moment's notice.

You can also flavor the syrup.  Drop in a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, or even a savory herb like rosemary while it's boiling, then strain it out when you place the syrup in the bottle.  Think of all those flavored syrups you get at coffee bars.  That's basically what they are, just more concentrated and usually containing corn syrup.

I'll give amounts for the sake of a recipe, but it's just a 1:1 ratio.  Make as much or little as you want.

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water

1.  Bring sugar and water to a low boil in a small saucepan.  Stir lightly and continue boiling until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Don't go away and forget about it.  If the water boils off, you're going to start making candy.

2.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  If it cools too quickly, it may form crystals.  Pour into a bottle or jar and store in a cool place.  Refrigerator is ok.  You'll notice that the syrup has the faintest amber color.  Perfectly normal.

3.  To use, 1 tsp of syrup is equivalent to slightly less than 1 tsp of sugar.

*For fun, dissolve 1 C sugar in 1/2 C water and boil to make a double-strong syrup.  Allow to cool, refrigerate slightly, then drop in some more sugar.  It makes cool crystal formations, kind of like rock candy.  Cute demonstration of super-saturation if you have any kids in a chemistry class.

Makes about 2/3 cup

Difficulty rating  π

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