I think it's just a slight switch in your state of mind: the idea that instead of buying a flavored thing, you could make that thing yourself. I think that might be the gateway to a whole new approach to cooking. Like: instead of buying lemon flavored pepper, you could grate the zest from a lemon and put pepper on something. It takes about 10 seconds longer, but the difference in flavor...OMG.
You are more creative and you have more control than you think.
It's the same with simple syrups. I was in a package store in Texas the other day looking for a bottle of wine, and was marveling at the sheer volume of prepackaged cocktails. THEY ARE BAD. Not just because they are full of corn syrup and artificial flavors, but, more to the point, they taste fake and weird. You can make something delicious and better.
So I thought the recipe this week should be so easy it's almost ridiculous: a six-pack of simple syrups.
The basic simple syrup recipe is very simple. You put equal parts sugar and water in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Now you have a syrup that can sweeten cold drinks without leaving a pile of sugar at the bottom. But why have plain syrup when you can have flavored syrup? And why have one flavor when you can have six? So, here you go:
Six-Pack of Simple Syrup
- Gather six containers - mason jars, cute little bottles with lids, whatever you like - that each hold at least two cups of liquid.
- Put six cups of sugar and six cups of water in a large pot. Stir so the sugar isn't sticking to the bottom.
- Heat the pan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Don't leave it on much after that because you don't want too much water to evaporate.
- In each of your jars, place something flavorful that you like. (Ideas below.)
- Pour the simple syrup over the top of the item in each jar.
- Cover and refrigerate for a week or two until the syrup is infused.
- Use your syrup for hot tea, ice tea, cocktails, between layers of cake before you put on frosting, in coffee beverages, in milk...everywhere!
- A couple flavors of syrup, tied with raffia or ribbon, make a lovely holiday gift.
Here are some flavor ideas:
- several slices orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit zest
- a couple sprigs fresh mint
- a couple tablespoons of ground coffee (not instant)
- Hibiscus flowers - 3-4 of them (makes the syrup bright red)
- Berries, any kind
- Basil - a few leaves
- Cucumber slices
- A couple cinnamon sticks
- Throw a few cloves and some nutmeg in with the cinnamon and presto: pumpkin spice flavor!
The possibilities are pretty close to endless.