The Ins and Outs of DIY Syrups: A Complete Guide
Are you tired of spending a small fortune on flavored syrups? Do you want to explore the world of homemade syrups? Look no further than this guide. We will walk you through everything you need to know about making your own syrup at home. From understanding the basics to choosing the right sweeteners, we will cover it all.
First, let’s start with the basics.
What is a syrup?
A syrup is a sweet and thick liquid made by dissolving sugar or sweetener in a flavor base. The flavor base can be anything from fruit juice to tea to cocoa powder. Syrups can be used in a variety of ways, from flavoring coffee or cocktails to drizzling over pancakes or ice cream. They are versatile, customizable, and delicious.
How are syrups made?
Syrups are made with a flavor base and sweetener, in a roughly 3:1 ratio, respectively. A 1:1 ratio gets you jam, if you add pectin, but to make a syrup, all you need to do is make whatever base appeals to you and sweeten it to your liking, so you can add as little or as much as you like up to that 1:1 ratio.
The end result won’t be shelf-stable, and you’ll need to keep it in the fridge, but unless you’re going for a full syrup bar’s worth of syrup, they don’t take up too much room. Sugar is a preservative, but sugar alone wouldn’t make the syrup shelf-stable; that’s just preservatives, baby.
Unlike jam, you want a clarified flavor base, meaning that you want it to just be liquid, without any fruit pieces or other particulates. If you want chai syrup, for example, you’ll want to make a strong chai tea, then strain it to ensure there’s absolutely no tea leaves left. The best way to do this is to line a strainer with cheesecloth. If you want to make blueberry syrup (and I highly suggest you do), you’ll want to extract the blueberry juice using a steam juicer, or by putting it through an electric juicer, or simmering it down, and then straining it a number of times.
In some cases, if you’ve got a flavor base that’s solid, like chocolate, caramel, marshmallow, or gingerbread, you’ll need to turn that solid into a liquid or a dissolvable powder in order to use it. For caramel syrup, this can be as simple as melting candies with water or milk. Chocolate already comes in a powder (cocoa), but getting it to dissolve requires making a paste first. (It’s not hard, however. We can show you how to do it here.)
You can also use flavors that suggest the end result, rather than using the “real thing,” much like how we flavor things with pumpkin spice instead of pumpkin puree to suggest pumpkin pie. A solid plan C is to look for imitation flavor, which is what is likely in your store-bought syrups, anyways. This is how you get to marshmallow.
Now that you understand the basics, let’s talk about choosing a sweetener.
Choose a sweetener
All sweeteners have different tastes, which is what makes the world delightful. Brown sugar tastes differently from white sugar, or maple syrup, honey, molasses, or corn syrup, which is a perfectly fine ingredient that has been unfairly maligned for years.
You can also choose from an embarrassment of sugar-free syrups, such as Stevia, Splenda, Truvia, etc. Most of these sweeteners do not thicken your syrup but just sweeten it.
There’s another class of sweeteners you should consider. These newer options are more likely to be found at a local health grocer and offer some potential health benefits. Brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, monk fruit (the liquid version), allulose, dates, or agave syrup are all worth investigating, as some of them may actually lower your blood glucose and insulin levels.
Once you have chosen your flavor base and sweetener, it’s time to simmer and create your syrup.
Simmer to get to syrup
Start by getting your flavor base simmering on the stovetop. Add your chosen sweetener and stir while simmering until the sweetener is completely dissolved. Most of the sweeteners mentioned above will help thicken your syrup, but thickness is not essential for a syrup. The key is achieving the desired sweetness.
However, if you prefer a thicker syrup, you can continue to simmer and stir to prevent burning until you achieve the desired consistency. If your sweetener alone doesn’t provide enough thickness, there are binders you can use, such as cornstarch or gelatin.
To use cornstarch, create a slurry by combining equal parts cornstarch and water or your flavor base. Add half of the slurry to your simmering syrup and stir it in. Simmer for five minutes and check the thickness. If it’s not thick enough, you can continue to add more slurry until you reach the desired consistency.
If you prefer to use gelatin, take your syrup off the stove and add one tablespoon of powdered gelatin directly to each quart of liquid. Stir it in and then bring the mixture back to a simmer for five minutes. Keep in mind that gelatin needs to cool to see its full effect, so pour a teaspoonful of syrup onto a plate from the freezer and tilt the plate to observe the thickness. You can return the syrup to the stove and add more gelatin if needed.
Now that you know how to make your own syrups, let’s explore a couple of delicious recipes to get you started.
Start your ‘rup journey with coffee or lime
If you’re a coffee lover, why not start with a homemade coffee syrup? Begin by making one pint of coffee as strong as you enjoy it. It can be espresso, cold brew, or even decaf. Add 2/3 cup of brown sugar to the coffee and stir them together in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Taste it and adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar if desired. For a thicker syrup, create a slurry of one tablespoon of cornstarch and one tablespoon of water or coffee, and add it to the syrup. Simmer for an additional five minutes. Allow the syrup to cool, pour it into a bottle, and refrigerate.
If you prefer a fruit syrup, let’s make a refreshing lime syrup. Start by juicing two pounds of limes and straining the juice to remove any pulp. The resulting juice should be light green and cloudy but free of pulp. Weigh the juice and add an equal amount of sugar to the saucepan. Stir the sugar into the lime juice, effectively creating a lime simple syrup. Allow the syrup to cool, transfer it to a bottle, and refrigerate.
Bottle that ‘rup
To keep your homemade syrups fresh and easily accessible, use a funnel to pour them into bottles. Look for bottles that fit between your shelves to maximize storage space. You can find suitable bottles online or consider using affordable and sturdy options like the IKEA bottles. Once bottled, the syrups can be refrigerated and should stay good for quite some time.
Remember to keep an eye on the syrup and discard them if you notice any signs of mold. Additionally, if you observe bubbles in the syrups, it means they are fermenting, which can alter the flavor and eventually lead to changes in alcohol content. While it won’t harm you, it’s best to discard fermented syrups and make a fresh batch.
Armed with your homemade syrups, you can now embark on a delightful journey of creating various delicious drinks. Whether you want to impress your friends with a fancy unicorn-colored concoction or simply enhance your morning coffee, these syrups will add a burst of flavor to your beverages.
Get creative and experiment with different combinations of syrups. Mix and match flavors to suit your taste preferences. You can even explore adding herbs, spices, or extracts to elevate the flavors further. The possibilities are endless, and you can customize your syrups to perfectly match your cravings.
Imagine sipping a cherry limeade from a bejeweled 72-ounce Stanley cup, or enjoying a comforting chai latte sweetened with your homemade chai syrup. With these syrups in your arsenal, you can bring cafe-level drinks right to your home.
So, go ahead and indulge in the art of syrup-making. Discover new flavor profiles, surprise your taste buds, and enjoy the satisfaction of crafting your own delicious syrups. Say goodbye to store-bought options and embrace the joy of homemade goodness.
Remember, making ‘rup is happening, and you can be a part of it. Let your creativity flow, experiment with different recipes, and share your syrup creations with friends and family. Enjoy the sweet journey of syrup-making and elevate your beverage game to new heights.
Cheers to homemade syrups and the delightful flavors they bring into our lives!