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Back in my Venture Scout days, I would take boys on overnight backpacking trips. Common fare was pancakes and syrup–except that syrup was too heavy to carry. So I would make up a mix ahead of time. It was simple: Sugar and maple flavor with the flavor poured right in the bag with sugar. In camp, it was add water and boil. The boys never felt deprived.
Syrups can be that simple. Syrups can also be made with juice instead of water. Additionally, fruit pieces or purees can be added. In the picture to the right, blueberries stain a simple lemon syrup.
Syrups are common in the baker’s kitchen. You can make your own pancake syrup or flavored syrups to put over desserts. If you cook it longer, it becomes thicker, more like a sauce than a syrup. (Syrups thicken as they cool so don’t over-cook them.)
The traditional dessert syrup is one-part water to one-part sugar by weight. Thinner syrups, such as those used as glazes, are made with two parts water. Of course, these are less sweet.
This is our long time standard recipe. It is a little more diluted than the standard 1:1 syrup since a cup of sugar weighs about eight ounces. (A cup of water weighs eight ounces.)
Notice that this recipe calls for cornstarch as a thickener. It’s not necessary. You may cook the sugar syrup a little longer to thicken it. The cornstarch makes this a very quick syrup.
This is a simple sugar syrup to which fruit is added. The recipe can be doubled.
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 cup individually frozen berries or other fruit
Optional: 1/4 cup corn syrup such as Karo
- Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy saucepan. Add the water. Add the optional corn syrup
- Cook the syrup until it bubbles and thickens washing down the sides of the pan with water and a pastry brush to sugar crystals. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the fruit.
Serve the syrup with fruit whole or in chunks or press the fruit through a strainer to make a smooth syrup.
- The cornstarch tends to make the syrup cloudy. If you want a clear syrup, omit the cornstarch.
- The corn syrup helps retard crystallization.
An alternative way to eliminate sugar crystals is to cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and boil for a couple minutes. The steam in the pan will condense and run the sides, thereby removing the crystals.
Instead of fruit, add a flavor or an extract enhanced by a food color if desired.
About Buttermilk Syrups
We make a line of buttermilk syrups. They are fantastic and certainly bestsellers. They are dairy-based sugar syrups. The dairy is buttermilk but a base is added to neutralize the acid in the buttermilk. Once neutralized, instead of tasting tart and acidic, it is mild and a little sweet with a caramelly, almost butterscotch tone. Flavors are sometimes added. The mixture is cooked until the syrup is thickened as desired.
The base used to neutralize the acid is baking soda. The trick is getting the right amount of baking soda to neutralize the acid. If too little baking soda is used, there is a leftover unpleasant taste of acid. If too much is used, you can taste the baking soda.
There are online recipes for buttermilk syrup. They’re approximations. Buttermilk varies from producer to producer. If you really want to be accurate, go buy some litmus paper and experiment until you get the solution neutral neither acid nor base.
Better yet, take advantage of this offer and get two buttermilk syrups for free, a $8.98 value.
Get your two free buttermilk syrups here. Choose your flavors. Use code “LDS4”. Offer expires June 7, 2016.
About the Author
Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He and his wife Merri Ann are the founders of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and he is the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book.
Dennis and Merri Ann live in Rigby, Idaho. They have five wonderful children and six beautiful granddaughters.