Thursday, May 18, 2017

Simple Syrup

I've had lots of people tell me, as I'm talking about my various occupations over the years, or demonstrating a "lost" art/skill, or just telling an old family story, that I ought to write a book. But y'know, writing a book, especially the broad-spectrum memoir that these lovely people seem to be hoping for, is a lot of work, and I really don't have the time or energy for it. My life has been weird and complicated, and I'm really not the best person to put it into long-form prose.

Which doesn't mean I don't want to write a book -- I do get that urge every now and again. I want to write all sorts of books, mostly beginner-level instruction for people interested in learning a new skill. I want to write a beginner's guide to learning how to spin yarn. I want to write a book for homeowners who don't necessarily want to become professional glaziers, but want to do right by their house's windows. I want to write a book about the handful of recipes/techniques that can allow an otherwise inept/poor/square-footage-challenged home cook stretch their culinary wings and do amazing things in the kitchen.

That last one is on my mind tonight as I wait for a batch of simple syrup to cool before I put it in a travel container with some lemon juice so I can have instant lemonade at faire this weekend. Simple syrup is one of those things that, when it's mentioned on cooking shows, sounds like a fancy chef thing, but is really quite basic, easy to make, and versatile.

I use my electric kettle to set some water to boil, and then pour a few cups of sugar into my 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. The basic recipe is equal parts water and sugar, but sometimes I go heavy on the sugar, especially when I know I'll be mixing it with something as tart as lemon juice. Tonight I put in three cups of sugar, and as soon as the water boiled I poured that in until it was almost to the top of the cup (a little over the 4-cup mark). Because the sugar dissolves, it's much closer to the 1:1 ratio than it might seem. Then I gently stirred the mixture until it turned clear (it may take a minute of stirring for all the sugar to dissolve), and left it to cool to room temperature before I pour it into a little plastic jug I saved after using up the agave syrup it came with.

This, I'll mix with an equal measure of lemon juice to make my lemonade concentrate. One part of the concentrate is diluted with four to five parts cold water (depending on how strong you like your lemonade), and savored one sip at a time on a warm day. This basic recipe can be augmented with things like lavender, or strawberries, or lime juice, or mint, or whatever strikes your fancy. The syrup + juice base lends itself to variation as wild and wonderous as your imagination and taste buds are willing to take it.

I also use the simple syrup to make sweet tea (brew iced tea, mix in syrup to taste) and an oh-darn-I-forgot-to-brew-it-ahead-of-time version of sekanjabin (a little syrup, a splash of white vinegar, and cold water until the vinegar is at "ooh, that's interesting" strength rather than "it's pickling my uvula" strength). For those who like their drinks a little higher-proof, simple syrup is an integral part of many a cocktail, where the sweetness can help tame a potent boozy flavor or accentuate a fruit liqueur.

And if you think I'm weird for going on for paragraphs about sugarwater, you should hear me wax poetic about a roux. Maybe next week.

1 comment:

  1. when you write enough of these paragraphs the books will become real possibilities, even if self-published and bought by people like me.

    I would like someday to somehow put what I know about practical geometry into a book... and I realize how much work that would be. So my blog posts, and my recent talk to the arch. historians in Washington,D.C., is a beginning of organizing, finding the words, the tone, the images.
    I hope we get there - our books out there to be shared!