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Archive for Honey-Sugar-Syrup

TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Your Own Stevia

Stevia is a sweet herb from South America, 20 to 30 times sweeter than sugar cane. Yet, it has no calories. It’s been a boon to many people who want a calorie-free sweetener but don’t want the chemically-derived aspartame (Equal), saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low) or sucralose (Splenda).

(Check out the different sugar substitutes.)

A wholesome alternative to processed sugar and chemically-derived sweeteners, Stevia is becoming more and more popular among health-conscious individuals.

The plant Stevia rebaudiana has been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní peoples of South America. For hundreds of years, it has been used in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten teas and medicines, and to chew as a sweet treat.

It came of notice to Europeans in 1899, when Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni, conducting research in Paraguay, first described the plant and the sweet taste in detail. He named the genus in honor of the Spanish botanist and physician Petrus Jacobus Stevus (Pedro Jaime Esteve, 1500–1556).

   

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The sweet leaves of Stevia rebaudiana. Photo courtesy
Wikimedia.

 

Stevia is also known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf and sugarleaf. It is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), which includes:

  • Other food products, including artichokes, coffee substitutes, herbal teas, lettuce, sunflower seeds and cooking oil.
  • Flowers such as chrysanthemums, dahlias, daisies, marigolds and zinnias.
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    stevia-sweetleaf-potted-burpee-230

    Grow your own pot of stevia. Photo courtesy Burpee.

     

    GROW YOUR OWN

    Stevia is an easy care plant that grows well indoors in a sunny window (and in the garden, of course), yielding small white blossoms in summer.

    You can dry and grind the leaves into a powdered sugar substitute. Or, do what the South Americans have been doing for generations: Pluck a leaf from the plant and drop it into your hot or cold beverage.

    You can also use it like a bay leaf to sweeten dishes as they cook.

    You can buy the seeds from Burpee.

    The plant reaches maturity, 12-20 inches, in 40-60 days.

    Or, you can buy plants that are already growing. Here’s one online source.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Simple Syrup

    lemon-vanilla-twist-vodka-nielsenmassey-230

    This cocktail uses homemade lemon-vanilla
    simple syrup. Photo courtesy Nielsen-
    Massey. The recipe is below.

     

    Granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold beverages. That’s why simple syrup (also called bar syrup, sugar syrup or gomme, the French word for gum) is used to add sweetness to drinks such as cocktails, lemonade, iced tea and iced coffee.

    Over the last decade, flavored simple syrups have become popular with mixologists. In addition to sweetness, they’re also used to add an extra layer of flavor to drinks.

    There are lots of flavored simple syrups on the market. In addition to common flavors—blood orange, lavender, mint, pomegranate, raspberry—you can find cardamom, peach basil, pineapple jalapeno cilantro, saffron and tamarind.

    Most people buy a bottle of premade simple syrup (also available in sugar-free.) Others simply make their own—not only because it’s easy and so much less expensive, but because they can create special flavors—everything from ghost chile to strawberry rose.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just bring equal parts of water and sugar to a boil and simmer, then add any flavorings. You can even make agave or honey simple syrup by replacing the sugar.

    SUGAR TIP: Superfine sugar dissolves much more quickly than granulated table sugar. You can turn granulated sugar into superfine sugar by pulsing it in a food processor or spice mill.

     

    RECIPE: SIMPLE SYRUP

    Ingredients

  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part water
  • Optional flavor: 1-1/2 teaspoons extract (mint, vanilla, etc.)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly until dissolved completely. (Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will be too thick.)

    2. ADD the optional flavor once the sugar is fully dissolved. To infuse fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary), simmer them in the hot water for 20 minutes and remove before adding the sugar.

    3. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken.

    4. STORE in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six months.

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: LEMON LIME RASPBERRY TWIST

    For spring, try this Lemon Lime raspberry Twist cocktail (photo above). The recipe from Nielsen-Massey, using their Pure Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla extracts.

    If you like heat, add some jalapejalapeñoo slices as garnish.

    Ingredients For ½ Cup Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup

  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 6 fresh raspberries
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 ounces lemon-flavored sparkling water
  • Lime twist
  • 2 frozen raspberries
  • Orange wedge
  • Optional garnish: sliced jalapeño (remove seeds and pith)
  •  

    simple-sugar-ingredients-zulka-230

    Just mix equal parts of sugar and water, plus any flavorings. Photo courtesy Zulka.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and lemon extract in a small saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reduces, about 10-15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat. After the syrup has cooled, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge.

    3. MUDDLE in a cocktail shaker the fresh raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup. Add vodka and sparkling water; shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Drop the lime twist and frozen raspberries into glass. Top with a freshly squeezed orange wedge.
     
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP IN BEVERAGES

  • Cocktails
  • Nonalcoholic drinks: agua fresca, iced coffee and tea, lemonade, mocktails, sparkling water (for homemade soda)
  •  
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP TO SWEETEN FOODS

  • Candied peel (grapefruit, orange, etc.)
  • Glaze baked goods
  • Snow cones
  • Sorbet
  •  
    Bakers brush simple syrup on layer cakes to keep the crumb moist. If you use flavored simple syrup, it adds a nuance of flavor as well.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Sugar

    You can buy Christmas sugar cubes decorated with tiny candy canes, gingerbread men, reindeer and snowmen.

    Or, you can serve something more subtle in appearance and sophisticated in flavor: a bowl of spiced vanilla sugar. You can make it or buy it.

    To buy it, head over to Silk Road Spices, where handmade vanilla sugar* is blended with allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg.

    In addition to sweetening drinks, you can sprinkle it on cereal, plain yogurt or toast. Try it in whipped cream, too.

    For $7.99, give jars as stocking stuffers.

    To make your own, try the recipe below. It takes only five minutes to blend the ingredients, but you’ll need to wait 48 hours for drying.

    The sugar will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. Since the recipe makes four cups, you can share it with friends.

     

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    Spice up your sugar for the holidays. Photo courtesy Silk Road Spices.

     
    RECIPE: SPICED VANILLA SUGAR

    Ingredients For 4 Cups

  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 20 whole cardamom pod
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cups fine granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all of the spices in a cast iron pan. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the aroma fills the air. Remove spices from pan just as they start to crackle. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind the spices roughly.

    2. PLACE the sugar in a large bowl and sprinkle the vanilla over it. Stir thoroughly; the sugar will turn a light brown color.

    3. MIX the spices with the vanilla sugar. Leave the bowl uncovered overnight to dry. The next day, break it up until it returns to granulated form (you can pulse it in a food processor or spice grinder).

    4. COVER the sugar bowl and let it rest overnight. The following day, sieve through a mesh strainer. Store in an airtight container.
     
    *You can make regular vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla bean in an airtight container of sugar. Try a turbinado sugar like Sugar In The Raw for a more aesthetic effect. Or, purchase it from premium sugar companies like Nielsen-Massey.

      

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    FOOD 101: Real Maple Vs. Maple Flavor

    gradeA-light-and-medium-amber-federationdesproducteursacericolesduQuebec-230

    Grade A Light maple syrup (left) and Grade A
    Medium maple syrup. Photo courtesy
    Federation des Producteurs Acéricoles du
    Quebec.

     

    While maple flavor can be enjoyed year-round, traditionally it’s a fall and winter flavor: We’re in prime maple season. So here’s a lesson on the difference between real maple syrup (also called pure maple or 100% maple syrup) and maple flavoring from the Vermont Maple Sugar Maker’s Association.

    There are numerous grocery products promoting maple as an ingredient, from oatmeal and granola to yogurts and sausages. They display the word “maple” on their packaging and include images of maple syrup or maple leaves—even when the product contains not a single drop of maple syrup!

    That’s because the permitted labeling can be deceptive, starting with the number one use of maple, breakfast syrup.

    “Pancake syrup” and “maple-flavored syrup” don’t contain any maple syrup*. They’re corn syrup with artificial colors and flavors that emulate maple syrup.

    Maple syrup is a largely unrefined sweetener made from the sap of maple trees: simply sap that is boiled down.

  • The real deal: To be sure that you are getting real maple syrup in a product, look for the words “maple syrup” or “maple sugar.”
  • The bad deal: While “artificial flavor” is a dead giveaway, phrases like “natural flavor” and “natural maple flavor” are also indications that the product contains no maple syrup. The “natural flavoring” is made of ingredients that are natural (as opposed to artificial), but not maple syrup. Otherwise, it would say “maple syrup” instead of “natural maple flavor.”
  •  
    *Some products contain a small percentage of real maple syrup, 1% to 5%. This will be stated on the ingredients label. By the way, pure maple syrup has just 40 calories a tablespoon, compared to 50 for granulated sugar and 56 for corn syrup.

     

    THE GRADES OF MAPLE SYRUP

    If you’re confused about the meaning of the different grades of pure maple syrup, you’re no different from most people. Is Grade A better than Grade B? What about Light, Medium and Dark?

    The grading system for maple syrup is based on color, and was established by the USDA. Color is neither indicative of the quality nor the purity of the syrup, but it does indicate the strength of the maple flavor. Generally, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor—so the grade you like will depend on how mapley you like your syrup. And the color is based on the length of time the sap is boiled down.

    Thus, unlike in the U.S. school system, a grade of A isn’t better than a grade of B. With maple syrup, it’s a question of what you’re going to do with it. Grade A, which is made in Light, Medium and Dark, is for table syrup. Grade B is used largely in baking and cooking, and in cleansing diets.

     

    gradeA-dark-amber-gradeB-federationdesproducteursacericolesduQuebec-230

    Grade A Dark Amber syrup, left and Grade B maple syrup. Photo courtesy Federation des Producteurs Acéricoles du Quebec.

     

    Grade A Versus Grade B

    Grade A Light Amber Maple Syrup has a very delicate maple flavor, the lightest of all options.

    Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup is the most popular grade sold, but that doesn’t mean it’s the connoisseur’s choice. Stronger than Grade A Light Amber yet still mild in maple flavor, it’s closest in style to the artificial-flavored supermarket pancake syrup.

    Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup has hearty maple flavor, and is our choice for the best maple syrup for pancakes.

    Grade B Maple Syrup has much more robust maple flavor. Once reserved primarily for cooking and baking, it is growing more popular as a table syrup among those who relish the greater intensity.

    Commercial Grade maple syrup is not available for consumer sale. It has exceptionally strong in flavor and is used as a commercial ingredient.

     
    CHECK OUT ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SYRUP & SUGAR IN OUR TASTY GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Honey & Food Pairings

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    Based on the plant from which the pollen is
    harvested, each varietal honey has a distinctive
    flavor and color. Photo courtesy National
    Honey Board.

     

    Mass produced “supermarket honey” is blended specifically to have a generic flavor. As with table sugar, it delivers a uniform, sweet, simple taste to consumers time after time.

    But raw varietal honey—varietal referring to the variety of plant from which it was derived—can be compared to wine, tea and coffee in its character and complexity. Different varietals produce different flavors (and colors, too).

    As wine aficionados pair different flavors of wines with specific foods, so do honey sophisticates. The pairings can be revelations, similar to discovering how well a fruity red wine goes with grilled salmon.

    The pairings below were developed by Zeke Freeman of Bee Raw Honey, using his American honey varietals. They just beg to be served at a honey-pairing brunch.

    You may find other pairings you like even better. Make a party of it!

    And check out the recipes at Bee Raw Honey, which recommend, among other ideas, blueberry honey for glazed carrots, buckwheat honey for salmon fillets and orange blossom honey for a chicken or turkey glaze.

    Basswood Honey

    Basswood honey is light in color, delicate and mild, with warm herbal notes and a clean finish.

  • Cheese Pairing: Fromage blanc
  • Fruit Pairing: Fresh green apples
  • Dairy Pairing: Vanilla ice cream
  • Tea Pairing: Mint and spice teas
  •  
    Black Sage Honey

    Golden in color, black sage honey is mild, with a mouth-warming hint of pepper and a smooth clean finish.

  • Cheese Pairing: Parmaggiano Reggiano
  • Fruit Pairing: Wine-poached pears
  • Dairy Pairing: Goat cheese ice cream
  • Tea Pairing: Black tea, especially Ceylon
  •  
    Blueberry Honey

    A medium amber in color, blueberry honey is strong and sweet, with earthy components.

  • Cheese Pairing: Stilton and other milder blue cheeses
  • Fruit Pairing: Lemon, melons
  • Dairy Pairing: Crème fraîche, sour cream, yogurt
  • Tea Pairing: Oolong tea
  •  
    Buckwheat Honey

    You can tell from the deep brown color that this honey is a different experience from the “simple sweetness” most people expect. Strongly-flavored like sorghum or molasses, this honey has hints of mossy earth, malty notes and less sweetness in general.

  • Cheese Pairing: Fresh goat cheeses, ricotta cheese
  • Fruit Pairing: Broiled grapefruit
  • Dairy Pairing: Greek yogurt
  • Tea Pairing: Elderflower tea
  •  

    Clover Honey

    Lighter yellow in hue, delicate, sweet and buttery, a top yellow clover honey can deliver warm undertones of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Cheese Pairing: Chevre
  • Fruit Pairing: Figs
  • Tea Pairing: Hot and iced chai
  •  
    Cranberry Honey

    True to its floral source, this medium amber honey has a delicate cranberry aroma and amildly tart flavor with subtle floral hints and a light, fruity finish.

  • Cheese Pairing: Gruyère
  • Fruit Pairing: Apples and tangerines
  • Tea Pairing: Chamomile tea, iced green tea
  •  

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    Stout and complex buckwheat honey, with earthy notes like sorghum or molasses, pairs nicely with sweet butternut squash. Photo courtesy BeeRaw.com.

     
    Orange Blossom Honey

    The light amber color and subtle flavor notes of citrus are a hint that you’re enjoying orange blossom honey.

  • Cheese Pairing: Manchego and other aged sheep’s milk cheeses
  • Fruit Pairing: Lemon, lemonade
  • Tea Pairing: English Breakfast, Ceylon
  •  
    Raspberry Honey

    Light amber-hued raspberry honey is delicate and floral with a raspberry finish.

  • Fruit Pairing: Raspberries, peaches, pears
  • Dairy Pairing: Sour cream
  • Tea Pairing: English Breakfast, Earl Grey
  •  
    Sourwood Honey

    Sourwood honey is dark amber: highly floral, rich and buttery with a maple finish.

  • Cheese Pairing: Camembert and other bloomy rind cheeses
  • Fruit Pairing: Grilled peaches
  • Dairy Pairing: Clotted cream
  • Tea Pairing: Classic iced tea, strong green tea
  •  
    Star Thistle Honey

    One of the palest gold honeys, yet thick and creamy, star thistle honey has soft notes of cinnamon and a long, sweet finish.

  • Cheese Pairing: Fresh cheeses: chèvre, ricotta
  • Fruit Pairing: Oven-roasted apples, pears
  • Drink Pairing: Hot apple cider
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    MORE ABOUT HONEY

    Honey was treated as a fine edible in ancient Egypt, with its terroir noted on each honey vessel. How did it become a product of simple, sticky sweetness?

    As with much of the food in our culture, our palates have become dulled by over-salted, over-sweetened, processed food. Since producing and harvesting honey is extremely labor intensive; one worker honey bee makes just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime!

    So producers give most consumers what they want—an acceptable price, as opposed to superior quality. Some honey isn’t even 100% honey, but has been cut and extended with fillers to keep the price down.

    Pick up a copy of The Honey Connoisseur: Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey, With a Guide to More Than 30 Varietals.

    And if you’re a honey fan, start to look at honey the way you look at wine: Spend less on the honey you use in baking or cooking, spend more on the honey you enjoy on a piece of toast.

    Each region is known for honey derived from their local crops: blueberry honey from Maine, lavender honey from Provence (France), orange blossom honey from Florida, sourwood honey from Georgia.

    Check out farmers markets and specialty food stores that let you taste different honeys. You’ll find herbal, floral, spicy, tart and other nuances that will sing to you.

      

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