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Ginger Syrup + Sparkling Water = Homemade Ginger Ale

ginger sugar pot

Earlier this week, I got walloped by one of those 36 hour stomach bugs. I spent a day bundling to ward off feverish chills and nursing a very tender belly. I couldn’t handle anything more than a few Saltines and a sip or two of liquid every hour.

half cup minced ginger

During my childhood, ginger ale was my mother’s prescription for any stomach trouble. We weren’t allowed to have it until the worst of the troubles were over (there’s no point in putting something in if you’re not yet capable of holding on to it) but goodness, was that first sip of sweet, bubbly soda divine.

ground ginger

Not wanting to head out into foul weather (and yikes, has our weather been terrible lately. Earlier tonight, we had a crazy confluence of snow and thunder) but needing a dose of that familiar remedy, I simply used what I had. I combined 1 cup of cane sugar, 1 cup of filtered water, 1 cup of chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger to create a super concentrated ginger syrup.

steeping ginger in simple syrup

After half an hour of gentle simmering and an hour of unheated steeping, I ran the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a pint jar. Then it was just a manner of spooning a small amount into a glass and topping it off with a pour of sparkling water (I adore my Sodastream for just this sort of thing). After a day of slowly sipping this homemade gingery ale, I felt much better. By the end of yesterday, I was even able to graduate from crackers to poached eggs over brown rice.

If you decide to make your own ginger syrup, don’t feel like you have to replicate my proportions. As you can see, my approach was just to combine equal parts fresh ginger, sugar and water. I added the powdered ginger mostly because I wanted to ensure a super gingery kick, however it’s entirely optional.

I still have half a jar of this gingery balm tucked into the fridge, and I’m continue to combine it with fizzy water or drizzle it into hot tea. There’s just nothing like ginger this time of year.

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Mint Simple Syrup

mint syrup

I have always been a fan of minty things*. As a kid, I would beg my grandfather for some of the Tic Tacs he always carried in on his person (the rattle of that plastic box always takes me back to him as well). I’d trawl the bottom of my mom’s purse for linty Lifesavers. And Christmas time, with its pepperminty candy canes never failed to delight mw.

As the years have gone by, my love of minty things hasn’t diminished, although I find myself gravitating towards less sweet applications than the sticky candies of my youth. Lucky for me, in the last few weeks, I’ve had access to all the mint I can carry, thanks to the garden plot of friends Angie and Thad. They have a most bountiful mint plant and no matter how much we cut from it, the next day it seems to be back, bigger than ever.

We celebrated the 4th of July within spitting distance of that marvelous mint plant, and so I took home a large bouquet after the grilling and drinking was complete. Yesterday, as I tried to clear out the fridge a bit and make room for our lunchtime salads, I pulled that bundle of mint out of the crisper drawer and concocted a plan.

I poured two cups of filtered water into a saucepan and added two cups of cane sugar. I gave the mint a quick rinse (just to get any garden dust off of it) and added it to the pot. I brought the whole thing up to a brief simmer, stirred until the sugar was dissolved and turned off the heat. I let it sit on the stove while I finished the rest of the dishes. When I turned back to it, the syrup was cool enough to handle and I strained it out into a quart jar. Swiping my finger through a trail of drips, I tasted it and was pleased to note that I had captures the green, freshness of the mint perfectly. I plan on mixing this minty simple syrup with sparkling water, for easy evening drinking. You could use it in a mojito if you felt so moved.

This minty simple syrup keeps indefinitely in the fridge. Make an extra jar and stash it away for later.

While we’re on the subject of mint, has anyone made their own mint extract? I did a bit of searching and found that some folks take the same tact that homemade vanilla extract requires (put leaves in vodka, let sit until they’ve given up their essence). Anyone have first-hand experience (I plan on trying it, but thought I’d query the crowd as well).

*Sadly, the man I live with isn’t so fond of the flavor of mint (he searches out toothpaste with the most mild of mint flavor), so I keep my minty habits to myself.

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Rhubarb Syrup Recipe

rhubarb syrup

I’m about half an hour from leaving for the long weekend, but before I take off, I wanted to post this recipe for rhubarb syrup. I’ve actually been seeing this gorgeous, crimson hued concoction all across the internet lately, but figured one more reminder of just how lovely a summer treat it is couldn’t hurt.

My initial inspiration came from seeing Carrie Floyd’s refreshing rhubarb soda over at Culinate and I essentially flowed her instructions, although I altered it slightly. I combined 2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water for about ten minutes. When the rhubarb was sufficiently broken down, I lined a mesh strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth (I happened to have some around, you could do without, but your syrup might not be as clear) and poured the rhubarb mass in.

straining syrup

I let it sit for about fifteen minutes, until I had about 2 cups of syrup (the picture above was taken while it was still dripping down, there was almost exactly 2 cups when I was done). I stored it in the cute little pint milk jug I bought (filled with cream) at New Seasons Market last winter when I was in Portland (hey, I paid my bottle deposit, so it was mine to keep should I want to). I’ve been enjoying it in sparkling water for the last couple of days.

What I haven’t done yet, that I’ve been wishing to do, is use this syrup as part of an gently boozy little spritzer. I’m thinking that it would be amazing with a bit of St. Germain or even just with some vodka. The flavor is definitely mild, so you want to pair it with something that won’t overshadow it too much. Needless to say, what remains of my last batch is coming with us this weekend (along with a bottle of Pimms’ for Scott and various and sundry other bar items).

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone!

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Sangria and Birthdays


I apologize for the radio silence over the last few days, I’ve been fully preoccupied with celebrating my 30th birthday with the proper amount of energy and attention that a landmark like that deserves. That kind of dedication to celebration doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for writing. I do have lots of good stuff coming up in the next week, including my adaptation of my dad’s from-scratch, whole grain pancake mix, homemade granola and some truly excellent pickles okra (as far as I’m concerned, okra is best served either pickled or breaded and fried) to make up for my neglect.

Before we dig into those goodies, I will leave you with my oh-so-exact recipe for sangria. This is one of my favorite party drinks and so was what I chose to bring to my birthday garden shindig. The night before I want to serve the sangria, I take a large jar (this one holds nearly 2 quarts of liquid, but if you don’t find yourself with a similarly proportioned jar, using two quart jars is fine) and pack it with sliced fruit. This time around I used lemons, limes, oranges, apricots, a couple of white nectarines and some strawberries, because that’s what was available cheaply at my local produce market. You could also use apples, grapes, peaches, plums or mango. Then I poured inexpensive brandy into the jar, until the fruit was covered. Lid on jar and into the fridge for an overnight soak.

When you’re ready to serve the sangria, pour your boozy fruit out into a punch bowl, large pitcher or other serving recepticle. Since we were imbiding outdoors, I used a large, food service-type plastic container. Top if off with 3-4 bottles or one box of red wine (two-buck Chuck is a good wine for this application). I froze a pound of red grapes to use as ice cubes, but managed to forget them in the hustle of getting out the door. They’re a great way to keep your sangria cooled down without watering it into tastelessness. If you like your sangria sweet, add a bit of simple syrup (sugar + water) or do what I did and add a couple of glugs of lemonade to the mix (sacrilege, I know). Ladle sangria into cup and top off with an inch or two of sparkling water to give it some fizz.

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