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What I’m cooking this weekend.

a dog day of late spring.


Sparkling Panakam: This recipe from Heidi Swanson's (101cookbooks.com) new book Super Natural Every Day, is for a sparkling, spiced Indian beverage, certain to refresh between weeding turns in the gardens.  With lime, ginger cardamom and salt, it is described on Epicurioius.com as "a frosty cold, light, bright ginger beer".  Yes please.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Coffee Cake: This recipe was given to me by a great friend a year ago--a great friend indeed, as it came binder-clipped to a big paper bag full of homegrown rhubarb.  The rhubarb went to very good use, but I still haven't had the chance to try this recipe.  It came with a rave review and I can't wait.


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Homemade Ginger Soda Syrup


Perhaps because of the few (very few) days of slightly decent weather we've had lately, my attention has recently shifted from hot teas and afternoon hot mochas to cold, effervescent beverages.

We are not big soda drinkers in our house, almost none at all, for all of the obvious reasons (high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, artificial colors,and the environmental impact of all of the packaging and distribution.)  But a small spell of stomach queasiness that my husband and I both shared not too long ago (lovely), had me at the grocery store searching for ginger ale, or even better a more gingery ginger beer, sans HFCS and with real ginger as an ingredient.  After not an easy time I did find a couple of options, but all ended up being too sweet for my liking.

I've been following the blog and success of Brooklyn's P&H Soda Co., a small artisanal producer of all natural, small batch, soda syrups, for a little while now.  With flavors including hibiscus, lime and cream, I can't wait for my next time in the city to pick up some at one of their new retail locations.  But it also occurred to me that with my flail at the grocery store, and with summer gatherings-on-the-porch weather quickly approaching, perhaps I should just get myself in the kitchen and try to figure out the whole shebang, or at least part of the shebang, myself.

The result made me and my stomach very happy.  And like so many of my DIY endeavors, was ultimately not difficult, offers endless delicious possibilities, and has everything I want and nothing I don't.

I mixed the gorgeous syrup with seltzer for an outstanding ginger soda.  (A side note, we have owned the SodaStream home seltzer maker for a few years, use it every day, and it is one of my top 3 favorite things in the kitchen.  It has saved us a fortune, and saves thousands of plastic bottles from having to be manufactured, recycled or land-filled.)  I'm also looking forward to using the syrup for mixed drinks and ginger martini's, or to wake up lemonade.

The best part of all is that you can control the sweetness, by adding more or less sugar to taste, and the ka-pow of the soda, by adding more or less syrup to your seltzer.  Experiment, concoct and enjoy.



HOMEMADE GINGER SODA SYRUP
by Catie Schwalb

1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

fine strainer
cheesecloth

TIP:  To peel ginger, wash and then use the front of a small spoon to scrape away the thin peel.  It will come off easily and a vegetable peeler tends to remove too much of the ginger meat.

Grate the ginger, and gently transfer it to a saucepan, careful not to squeeze out or lose any of the flavorful juice in the process.  Add the sugar, water, and lemon juice to the ginger.

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and turn off heat.  Allow mixture to steep and infuse for thirty minutes.

Return the ginger mixture to a gentle boil and reduce it by about half, until it has a slightly thicker, more syrupy consistency.  This is just really evaporating the extra water, and adjusting how concentrated you want the syrup to be, so go as long or short as you want, but do not let it cook so long that the syrup starts to get very thick, turn amber in color and caramelize.

Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.  Strain through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Squeeze cheesecloth to extract any remaining juices.  Refrigerate for up to a week.

For ginger soda:  Combine 1 part ginger syrup with 4 parts seltzer, or more or less to taste.


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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