Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soda Syrups

Due to just being around people in general, soda pop made its way into our house. For years I have been battling to get it back out. Rather than throw my hands up in despair while my husband and children begged for it (mostly just on the days they were terribly bored with iced tea or the occasional juice), I figured out a substitute. I hate to see anything thrown out, and I love creative uses of anything else. This led to soda syrups, which we use with sparkling water in a ratio of roughly 3 to 1. These syrups impart more than enough flavor to a drink, and yet are far, far, FAR less sugar (even if they are still a syrup!) than a normal soda, and have none of that "other stuff". I have been using whatever I have left over from canning other preserves, plus the wonderful fruit finds from our local grocery store and markets-ours has a big cart it tosses "going to spoil soon" fruit in for pennies on the dollar. These mixes of fruit (right now mostly stone fruit) make wonderful syrups. We have also been making herbal and foraged syrups. What follows is my basic recipes. These are fabulous added to iced teas in place of sugar, as well. They could be made with honey, but my pocket book prefers I stay away from that until we have our own source. I include the lemon juice in all the recipes because I do not know the specific varieties of some of these fruits, or their precise age and it is my safety net. Plus, lemon is good with any fruit :)

Basic fruit syrup:
Clean, pit/seed and chop up your fruit-whatever kinds. You can mix and match or do all the same.
Put them in a pot with a little water to keep them from scorching while you cook them down. I cook mine around 15-20 minutes, and mash them while while cooking to release as much juice as possible.
Once it looks like they are sufficiently mushy and pulpy, strain the entire mixture into a separate pan, like you would for jelly or cheese (I use a plain, white cotton dish towel and hang it from my cabinets over a bowl). Let it drip until it drips no more. Do not squeeze, unless you want cloudy syrup-which isn't a really big deal. It tastes the same, but you may end up with little pieces of pulp in your glass, too.
Measure out how much juice you have into a stock pot, and add the same amount of sugar-this is a syrup, folks! Bring the whole thing up to a boil and boil just long enough for the sugar to fully dissolve and incorporate. Add 1/4 c lemon juice per batch of syrup.
Fill your sterilized canning jars (you could easily keep this in quarts, though we use pints and half pints as I like to change up my flavors a lot), clean the rims, top with sterilized lids, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
We have used grapes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, strawberries and canteloupe in all sorts of concoctions for this this summer, and I have a watermelon waiting to become watermelon and watermelon mint soon.

For an herbal syrup (our fave right now is chocolate mint, we are making an almond flavored one from peach leaves today): Take two cups of fresh picked leaves, tear and bruise them, and add two cups of water.
Place in a pan and boil your leaves to basically make a tea-5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want it. Taste it!
Strain out the leaves and add 2 cups of sugar to the liquid. Boil this until the sugar fully incorporates.
Follow the canning instructions above.

These are great in coffee, as well. There are wonderful posts around the net on using foraged items like elderflower and Queen Anne's Lace (just omit the pectin recommended here to make it a syrup) in syrups, as well.

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