Flavorful Simple Syrups make Summer Drinks & Dishes Shine!

Iced teas and lemonades are summertime staples.  When it is hot and steamy outside there is nothing like an icy cold glass, sweating from melting cubes, filled with your favorite drink.  Flavor that tea or lemonade with raspberry, strawberry, lemon, lime, peach or mango, and you've taken that drink to a whole other level! 
Prepared flavored drinks can be pricey, and many times the consumer gets more than bargained for in terms of artificial flavoring, color and preservatives.  Follow the simple steps below, grab a few simple ingredients and make your own drink creations! These are the basic steps with some flavor suggestions, but once you get into it, you'll realize that simple syrups are pretty much limited only by your imagination.  I give instructions for lemon and berry syrups, but how about ginger (use fresh ginger slices), vanilla (a vanilla bean), mint, herbs, or dried peppers and spices?  Just remember to allow the flavoring agent to steep until the syrup has completely cooled, then strain. 
In the winter, flavored syrups are fabulous in coffee, and that takes us in another direction entirely (more to come later).  How about pouring some over a bowl of ice cream, sorbet, or fresh fruit?  What a perfect summer treat!  Experiment with the basic formula, and you'll never buy flavored tea or lemonade again!  (See the Lemon Simple Syrup recipe used in the Lemon & Black Pepper Strawberry Shortcake, too.)

The "normal" ratio for simple syrup is equal parts (by weight) sugar and water.  I've adjusted those amount to allow for the liquid contained in the berries.  I also like this syrup a bit more concentrated, so less is needed and the fruit flavor is more concentrated.  Adjust to suit your personal taste, as always!

12 ounces berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.) or other fruit (puree fruits like peaches and mangoes first)

12 ounces granulated sugar

6 ounces water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Place berries in a medium saucepan and crush slightly. (No need to crush pureed fruits, obviously!)  Add sugar, water, and lemon juice.  Bring to a hard boil over high heat, then reduce heat and boil lightly for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer.  Store in the refrigerator. 

Use the syrup to flavor tea or lemonade; you determine the amount that makes you happy!

Use your imagination to come up with your favorite flavors: mint, ginger, lime, basil, mango, peach, vanilla, the lists goes on.  Have fun and enjoy the "fruits" of your easy labors.

Please leave your comments below; I would love to hear about your flavored syrup adventures!

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