What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: syrup

Flavoured Milk

“Why can’t you just be normal and buy Nesquick?” asked the Moose. He’s been requiring a lot of fuel lately, what with the intense timetable and having to stoop so his head doesn’t poke a hole in the ceiling. He found a forgotten tin of the stuff in the back of the pantry and sucked it down with about two litres of milk. “Buy more Nesquick!” he demanded. It’s just strawberry flavouring, yes? Strawberries are cheap at the moment.

What you do is chuck a punnet of strawberries into the Thermomix, take off their hats first and give them a rinse. Half a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Varoma for ten minutes, speed two. One hundred degrees for half an hour, speed two. The Muffet caught me trying to sieve the damned stuff through a tea strainer.

“Who cares about lumps?” she trilled. So I just dumped it in the jar. It possibly would have better without them, but hey. I wanted to make chocolate syrup too, and there was much else going on, not the least an analysis of sheet music costs for the last four years for the choir. Something to put off til at least bedtime.

Chocolate syrup is also easy. A cup of finest cocoa powder, half a cup of brown sugar, a cup of white sugar, a cup and a half of water. One hundred degrees at speed three for ten minutes. I added a personal touch of a tablespoonful of malt syrup which I finally tracked down to the health section in Woolies, curse them.

It isn’t very thick, but it’s delicious and rich.

I can’t get the kids to try it though, they’re busy with the strawberry flavour.
“Do you like it?” I chase the Moose around the house asking. “No!” he says. “Well, yes, it’s delicious. But I wanted Nesquick!” I think he’s trying to tell me something. I wonder what it is?


Mandarin Syrup

I haven’t done a syrup for a while, have I? At least, that’s what the kids tell me. I like to make syrup out of any fruit that’s cheap and plentiful, and at the moment that’s mandarins.

It’s a pretty simple one. I was inspired to try it because the a Thermomix recipe book had a recipe for Mandarinade. I made it. It was just awful. I tossed it in the compost. Don’t bother trying it. Here’s what you do instead.

Boil up two cups of caster sugar with a cup of water. You can do this in the Thermomix, put it on 100 degrees, speed two for about seven minutes. Then take six mandarins and two limes and skin them.

I put them in the blender and zapped them good. Put the steamer basket in the Thermomix jug and tip the citrus pulp in. Squash it down with a teaspoon to get all the juice out. Or just strain it into a bowl if you’re doing it the old fashioned way. You should get about 250 grams of juice. Zap it on speed four for a few seconds to mix it in. Now you should taste it, because there’s a fair bit of variability in the tartness of the fruit. Mine was a bit sweet, so I stirred in a teaspoon of citrus acid.

I then strained it into a jug, I like my syrup clear. You don’t really have to.

You add it to soda water, don’t drink it straight unless you’re trying to mess with your blood sugar. The German billet liked it better than bought lemonade. So there.

Lime slushies

There are many fine things about a hot day. You can get all your washing done, including doonas and school bags. You’ll be getting your money’s worth from the pool. And you can get some use out of your brand new blender.

Making homemade lime slushies takes a little preparation. First, you need to organise for your kids to get you a really excellent blender for Christmas. “Oh thanks kids, that’s EXACTLY what I wanted!”. Well, they benefit too, it’s not that bad. Then you need to make a lime syrup. Normally you can make a syrup for soft drink minutes before serving it, it doesn’t matter if it’s still hot because you can top it up with ice and soda and no one will notice. But to make a slushie you need the syrup to be cold, and if possible the glasses too.

So get hold of a whole lot of limes while they’re on special. Normally I’d juice citrus for a syrup, but these ones were tiny (that’s why they were cheap), so I went for a different approach. I roughly peeled the limes with a small knife and put them whole into the blender. There were about twelve of the little guys. I also put in an orange and a lemon, similarly treated, both to bulk it up and also because lime by itself is a pretty strong taste.

Meanwhile you have dissolved two cups of caster sugar in a cup of water over some heat in a saucepan. Balance a large wire sieve over the saucepan. Blend up the citrus in your super powerful blender. Don’t worry about deseeding or getting all the white bits off, you have a life to live, just blend it! Then tip the resulting mush into the sieve over the saucepan. You’ll need to squash it through with a spoon or your fingers. Having had a lot of experience with feline effluvium, I can tell you that what’s left in the sieve looks a lot like cat sick. Make sure you’ve squeezed as much liquid as you can be bothered getting out of it before tipping it into the compost. With any luck you’ve added about another cup of liquid to the syrup. Decant it into a jug and stick it in the fridge.

To make the slushie, tip about two cups of crushed ice into the blender and press the ice crush button. It’ll work with ice cubes too, but will need some poking with the plastic poking stick. My blender gives a result that looks a lot like snow. Fill up two glasses with this, drizzle syrup on top, then a bit more snow on top. Serve with a teaspoon to any damp little boys you have sitting in front of your TV playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the Wii while having a break from swimming. Assure the little friend that it doesn’t need to be bright green to be lime flavoured. Take orders for the next round of syrup flavours, I’ll be making cola next. Then raspberry, but with frozen raspberries, fresh ones are way too expensive for syrup. Interestingly, the kids love my cola syrup in ice block form, but not as a soda. We haven’t tried it in slushie form yet.


Not Coca Cola Syrup

When one has given up a glass of wine with dinner during the week for whatever reason, it may be that you’re thinking of your schoolgirl figure, it may be that your husband has gone on a health kick and you’ve decided to be uncharacteristically supportive rather than making his favourite biscuits all the time, where was I? Oh yes, one still feels the need to have something a little special with dinner as a reward for not skinning anyone alive during the day. What I’ve been in the mood for lately and have only just got around to making today is homemade cola.

This is one of those more complicated recipes that you have to be full of energy and optimism to make. You need such fancy things as a Microplane grater (the fine one) and some muslin. I started off with the classic recipe published by the New York Times last year, which I could make you go and look up, but I guess I’ll be kind and list it here. Then I’ll tell you what I actually did.

Grated zest of two oranges
Grated zest of one large or two small limes
Grated zest of a lemon
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 point of a star anise, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons minced ginger
A one and a half inch piece of vanilla pod, split
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Bung everything except the sugar and citric acid in a saucepan with two cups of water. Simmer gently covered for twenty minutes. Place the sugar and citric acid in a bowl, top with a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Pour the concoction through the sieve and squeeze all the fluid out. Stir the syrup while it’s still hot to dissolve the sugar. To serve you put a quarter of a cup of syrup in a tall glass and top up with soda water.

This is a pretty good recipe as it stands. There’s a bit of a treasure hunt involved for ingredients, but once you have them you have a summer’s worth of cola. I get out the Microplane first and do the zesting, the nutmeg and the ginger straight into the saucepan. Today I used a large pink grapefruit instead of the two oranges, and I think I prefer it. I use half a cinnamon stick in place of the pinch in the recipe. I felt that it needed a little more gravitas, so added a tablespoon of ground coffee to the saucepan as well. I also use a full teaspoon of citric acid, I think it makes it zippier. I simmer it for about an hour, which probably doesn’t make a great deal of difference.

Now I should go and make a citrus syrup to use up all the nude fruit I have left. That may have to wait until tomorrow, I’ve run out of puff and still have two more armored vests to make.

Fruit Soda

You know, a lot of the things I make from scratch I’m not doing to be an annoying show off, although that aspect certainly appeals.  Or to boast about how much time those of us not in gainful employment have on our hands to go about pretending that we live on a farm in the nineteenth century.  It’s because when I first started doing these things, particularly the subject of this post, I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  Why have we been suckered into buying soft drinks all these years when it’s the work of minutes to make your own?

This is it.  Seriously.  Dissolve two cups of sugar in one cup of water (you will need heat).  Add one cup of fruit juice.  That’s your soda syrup.  Pour a bit into a glass and add soda water.  See?  You couldn’t even get to the corner shop and back in that time.

Of course there are niceties, which trial and error have taught me.  Once you’ve tried it you can’t go back, so you’ll have to haul yourself up to Kmart to buy a Sodastream.  You want a fairly acid fruit juice, so I’ll usually include a lemon if I’m doing an orange or a grapefruit soda.  I’ll also add up to a teaspoon of citric acid (it’s next to the baking powder at the supermarket) to the mix to give it zing and to act as a preservative (not sure if that’s true, but I read it on the Internet, so it must be).  I’ve found that you want to stick to just one or two kinds of fruit and so far one of them has been citrus. I’ve made strawberry lemonade and orange and passionfruit soda.  That leads to the next tip, to use a pulpy fruit just chop it up and add it to the saucepan you’re boiling your water and sugar in.  Put a lid on, you’re not trying to reduce it.  Cook it for about five minutes, or until the fruit can be squished with a fork.  Have the cup of citrus juice in a bowl with a sieve over it and tip the syrup into it, squashing all the flavour out of the pulp with a fork so it will drip through the sieve.

Last night we had an impromptu barbeque, so I scouted around the kitchen for soda ingredients.  I had half a bag of oranges, some lemons, and three small, soft, slightly wrinkled white nectarines that the kids had turned up their noses at.  I chopped up the nectarines and put them in the sugar syrup, and boiled that for about ten minutes.  My cup of citrus juice was half a lime I had left over from Saturday’s gin and tonic, an elderly lemon, and four oranges.  I wasn’t sure how much flavour the nectarines would have, but they added a gorgeous fragrance to the mix and gave a lovely pink hue to the syrup.  I should calculate how much soda a jug of syrup makes up, but I can tell you it’s lots and lots.  The kids gave it a resounding thumbs up, so this one is staying in the repertoire.


Ginger Spice Syrup

I’ve been fighting off a cold for about a week now, and woke up to realise that I’d lost. I’m aware that there is no cure for this insidious virus, so I entertained myself for half an hour on the internet looking up home remedies. My goodness there’s some nonsense out there. One site actually listed a whole lot of studies that showed that echinacea was no better than a placebo for the cold, then went into preparation and dosages of the stuff. The Mayo Clinic suggest plenty of fluids, a saline rinse of the sinuses, and a nice garlicky chicken soup are the only things actually shown to reduce symptoms. I’m the only one in the house capable of producing the latter, but I may have mentioned that I have a cold. Also am lacking in chicken bones at the moment. The middle option sounds rather disgusting, and I’m not that clogged up yet. I’m going with the first. I’m a little bored by water and notice that some of the wackier sites suggest various forms of tea, so that’s what I’m going with.

I like ginger tea, and there are an infinite number of recipes for it. I’ve been making syrups for soft drink for a while, you’ll have to wait for another blog for that, and have done a ginger syrup. But I want it for tea, not for soda, so it won’t need to be as sweet. I also find that the ginger syrup I make gives you a soft drink that tastes exactly like Saxby’s ginger beer, a result I find strangely unsatisying. I’m going to make it a little more spicy.

I chopped up a cup of ginger. Small dice, you want a large surface area, but not so small that you need to mess around with muslin when you strain it. One cinnamon stick. One superannuated vanilla pod that has spent the last year of its life inside a now extinct bottle of homemade vanilla essence. Three cups of water. Put the lot in a saucepan with the lid on and brought it to a low boil. Then I checked my emails, scratched the dogs, put on a wash, had a shower, then came into a kitchen that smelled really quite delightful. I think I got the spice mix right first time. If you’re making a syrup that has chunks that need to be sieved out, I like to put the sugar in a bowl and sieve the hot liquid over it, then stir like mad to dissolve it before it cools down. If you have the sugar in the saucepan, you risk turning the syrup into toffee if you lose concentration, and everything gets a lot stickier. I’m averse to sticky.

The sugar you use in a syrup makes a difference too. For soda syrups I generally go with caster sugar. For this one I used half a cup of brown sugar and a third of a cup of honey. That’s all I had left, and it was rock solid. The Moose gave up eating honey when I told him he had to unsticky everything after he spread it on his toast, and no one else eats it. That wasn’t enough sugar for a soda syrup, not for a kid friendly one, anyway, but great for tea.

Quarter of a cup of syrup in my large Elmo coffee cup, top with boiling water and I really like it a lot. It’s a very unappealing looking syrup, resembling the Murrumbidgee River more than anything else, but hopefully that will stop the kids drinking it.