How to make strawberry syrups

7
Jul/09
5

IMG_1344I’m a summer kind of guy. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “fuck winter” I’ll definitely give it a disapproving glance and go back to bed if given half the chance.

This is, in part, why I’m so happy that summer is finally here and I can spend my days biking everywhere, reading books in the park and generally spending as much time as possible outside.

The second reason why I like this season so much is the fresh produce! With at least one of the many farmers’ markets operating pretty much any day of the week, loads of varieties are readily available and for those willing to go further afield, terrific deals can be found.

The end of June and the beginning of July is the time of year when strawberries ripen. For less than $20 you can go to most fields around Toronto and pick about 12 quarts filled to the brim with juicy, sweet, sun-ripened strawberries. I went to one in Bowmanville with my mum but a Google search will turn up dozens of likely options. You should wake up early and get there by 10 ‘cos there are less crowds that way and the sun’s not quite so hot. Go up one row and down another and you’ll have all the fruit you need!

It doesn’t get much better than that.

While my mum was all set for making jams and pies, I had a grander ambition: I wanted to make syrup. (I briefly considered making a liqueur but decided against it because I couldn’t afford any 100-proof vodka at the moment.) I also decided to add some interesting twists and settled on some rhubarb from my mum’s garden and some cardamom seeds.

After looking at a variety of recipes, I settled on one from CountryLiving.com. I modified it because I wanted to have a couple of bottles on hand instead of just a cup.

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB SYRUP

4 cups chopped rhubarb
3 3/4 cups sliced strawberries
3 2/3 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups water

In a large saucepan, combine all four ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

IMG_1346The chopping and slicing can take awhile so be sure to entertain yourself while you’re at it. I watched a bootleg copy of the second Transformers flick because I wanted something that wouldn’t require too much attention but wouldn’t leave me bored either.

It mostly did the trick but I gotta say, if you paid for it you’re a sucker. Michael Bay seems to be doing his damnedest to supplant Uwe Boll as the worst-director-who-keeps-on-getting-work. You know he’s bad when a dude named McG makes a better movie.

(For an interesting article about McG, check out Esquire. For an equally-interesting F.A.Q. trying to explain Transformers 2, go to Topless Robot. If the reviewer interviewing himself doesn’t make you laugh, the numerous comments from outraged fans will.)

For the Strawberry-Cardamom syrup, I basically used the same recipe but there were a few changes.

STRAWBERRY-CARDAMOM SYRUP

4 cups sliced strawberries
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 oz vanilla
1 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 cup cardamom seeds

In a large saucepan, combine all six ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

One thing you I should mention about this is if you buy the cardamom pods, you’re gonna have to get all of those seeds out by splitting the pods. This can take time but it’s worth it because they’ll be fresh and if you get ground cardamom, you’re gonna have a helluva time straining it. You’d probably have to get cheesecloth and if all you have is a fine mesh, you’re better off sticking to the seeds.

IMG_1340

The best part about making syrup is the taste-testing! There’s always a spare ounce here or there that you can make something delicious with and by the time I’d bottled the fruits of my labor, I had a nice cocktail to sit back with.

FRAISO BLANCO

1 oz Corzo Blanco tequila
1 oz strawberry-cardamom syrup
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
tonic water

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add first three ingredients and stir thoroughly. Top up with tonic water.

So there you have it! Syrups are pretty damn easy and while they don’t last as long as liqueurs (they tend to lose a bit of their flavour after the two-month mark) they also make excellent gifts. Alternatively, just halve my recipe or play around till you find some happy medium of your own. Some excellent alternatives to cardamom include basil and sage; I’m sure you can come up with some on your own as well.

So far, I’ve made orgeat (almond) syrup and now I have two kinds of strawberry to add to my recipe book. Raspberries are coming soon and before I know it, there’ll be peaches… it’s shaping up to be a great summer!

IMG_1358