My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages. Specifically the cola variety. The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl). Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course, as they contain a lot of sugar. The colas especially so. Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw. When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it. It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).
These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).
So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?
The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail. I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.
You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon. I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill. Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.
So I grated a lot of citrus. I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.
For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.
Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.
It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.
Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff. Mmm, smells so good.
Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.
Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk). Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.
You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.
In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.
Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package. Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.
Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.
In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it. You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.
To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water. It tastes FANTASTIC. Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it. AMAZING.
And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.