I find reasons to be grateful for my pre-med education all the time, but rarely inside the medical school.
I’d never made flavored simple syrup before, and if you had watched me do it that would have been obvious: I threw in 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 1 cup of our precious garden basil into a shallow pan and boiled until the herb had completely given up the ghost. And the taste? Plain sugar syrup. What went wrong?
Then, I remembered: ugh…organic chemistry lab. That hellish 2 hour period that stood between me and lunch every Tuesday and Thursday of sophomore year. In the lab session on distillation, we had to isolate aromatic oils by slowly heating a solution so that the molecules of interest would reach their boiling point, vaporize, and then condense in another place without the other crap in the solution.
I suppose in my first attempt I was boiling off all of the flavor and leaving behind the dregs of the plant. I looked up the volatile oils usually found in basil, and the only one that seems to have a boiling point below that of water is thymol (I welcome anyone, including Ari, to out-nerd me on this one). But whatever, the addition of basil at a cooler temperature did produce a green, basil-flavored syrup that I added to soda water.
A more popular application of simple syrup is the cocktail. But I have class tomorrow.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup packed basil leaves (cheap at Park2Shop or Zagara’s. I’m trying lavender next)
- 12 ounces carbonated water
Boil the water and sugar in a shallow pan over the stove until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has reduced a bit. Turn off the heat, and when the mixture is still hot add the basil. Let steep for 30 minutes, then strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into an air-tight container. Seal the container, and keep (in the fridge? in a dark cool place? for up to a month? I have no idea) until you’re ready to use it. I added about 3 tablespoons of the syrup to the carbonated water to make the soda.
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