Sunday, March 14, 2010

Making infused syrups

IMG_8922To bring liquid interest to my meals, I’ve been experimenting with home-made sodas. Or, more precisely, I’ve been experimenting with flavored syrups, as my sodas are simply some syrup topped by chilled sparkling water and perhaps a dash of Angostura bitters.

The possibilities are almost endless: aromatic leaves and roots from Asian cuisine, spices (the cardamom soda at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley is splendid), citrus zest, vanilla beans, berries, lavender, and so on. For many infusions, it’s almost as simple as making a cup of tea: heat water, sugar and the flavoring ingredients together, then cool and strain. For infusions with fresh produce, like a strawberry syrup, a different approach is needed, macerating the fruit in sugar, then cooking the mixture to obtain a syrup – a process similar to jam making but with far less cooking (no need to get the “set”).

Here’s one of my favorite base flavors: ginger, makrut lime and lemongrass. I’m still working on the timing for the infusion, thinking that a better flavor might be obtained by adding the lime leaves after the liquid has come to a boil.

Thai-Inspired Syrup

10 grams peeled ginger root, sliced
3 paired makrut lime leaves* (i.e., 6 leaf segments total)
20 grams lemon grass, sliced
225 grams water (1 cup)
225 grams sugar (about 1 cup)

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for about a minute, then turn off the heat and cover. Let steep for five to ten minutes. Pour into a heat-proof container through a fine strainer and allow to cool. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

To serve, pour 15-30 mL (1-2 tablespoons) into a glass and top with 350 mL (12 fl. oz.) chilled sparkling water.

* Citrus hystrix, an Asian lime with double-segmented leaves. Most famously used in Thai curries, salads and soups, the leaves impart a magical aroma and subtle flavor. You can sometimes find them in Asian grocery stores, or in groceries that carry more exotic ingredients (like Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, and possibly some Whole Foods).

Random link from the archive:The grocery bag pannier makes shopping by bicycle easier


Eurasian Sensation said...

Cardamom and orange blossom water would make a good flavour combo.

For a slightly different take on the syrup-and-soda combo, you should try the Indonesian "soda gembira" ("hapy soda"). It seems kinda wrong but is quite awesome. You combine soda water with rose-flavoured syrup (red commercial stuff) and sweetened condensed milk. It's fabulous.

sara said...

Is Citrus hystrix also known as kaffir lime? I know the essential oil smells a lot like the rinds of kaffir.

Marc said...

Eurasian Sensation -- the soda gembira sounds interesting and worth a try someday.

Sara -- Citrus hystrix is also known as kaffir line.

Diane said...

I applaud your sensitivity in calling the leaves "makrut leaves" and the intention involved in avoiding negative racial terms. But the fact is that perjorative or not, these leaves are marketed in the US as "kaffir lime leaves" and if you ask for "makrut leaves" no one will know what you are talking about.

For better or worse, that is what they are called here.

Marc said...

Perhaps no one knows the name now, but that can change, and I'm trying to be part of that change. But then again, in a Thai grocery they might not know what you're talking about if you don't say makrut. Or a Indonesian grocer might only know "daun jeruk purut". Or "daun limau purut" in a Malaysian grocery. Actually, I expect that you could probably get away with calling them "lime leaves," as they are the only citrus leaves sold as far as I know. Walk into a specialty grocery and ask for "lime leaves" and you'll most likely get Citrus hystrix.

Here's what the Oxford Companion to Food has to say on the subject: "...the term 'kaffir lime' seems to have only a very short history in the English language and may be all the easier to eradicate for that reason. Since the fruit in question is of some importance in a number of SE Asian cuisines, it is in books about them that one is most apt to find references to it [Ed. note: every cookbook in my library uses the term kaffir (and were published by British or American publishing houses, which would lean in the direction of that word)] Such evidence as had been amassed in the 1990s, when the usage came under scrutiny, suggests that the first occurrence in print may have been in the early 1970s in Thailand. But it would be a reasonable assumption that the term had its origin in southern Africa and may have reached Malaysia and Indonesia from there through the Cape Malays, and then travelled westwards to Thailand. In the language of each of these countries the fruit had its own name, and there had been little reason until recently for it to have an English name." The Oxford Companion recommends using makrut lime.

Hungry Passport said...

Thanks for the Thai syrup recipe. Just this past weekend I bought myself a makrut tree during Songkran, so the timing is good--it still has that new-tree smell! I see some cocktails in our future made with this syrup...

Cheers! Carol