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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Burnard

Simple Syrup

Sliced strawberries and basil leaves in a small, shallow pot of clear liquid on the stove.

Bear with me, I’m about to say a lot of Things. I promise I’ll get to the recipe. Simple syrup is a really fun way to liven up foods and drinks (like all those excellent looking cocktails I’ve been seeing on instagram and facebook). It’s extra important to inject some joy into our lives lately, and this is an easy way to do that. Added bonus- you’ll feel SO VERY FANCY stirring your homemade artisan small-batch simple syrup into whatever it is you’re making. Bonus points for posting artfully arranged photos of the final product on the social media platform of your choosing. Eat your heart out, hipsters. But before we get to that:

Things are a little weird right now. A little scary. There’s a lot of stress baking happening. It feels weird to make requests of people reading my little blog (especially since so much of my audience is in marginalized categories and we’re having a hard time right now). If what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you, then like...ignore it? Skip to the next section? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore (insert very dramatic gif of sad person looking out of a window into the rain here).

Please only buy the products you need right now, as people are having a hard time finding basics like eggs. With a few exceptions like some perishables or specialty items, I’ve only been using things that already existed in the fridge or pantry. I also haven’t been to the store myself in a very long time. Actually, I haven’t been inside any building other than my own house for a very long time. If you are having trouble finding kitchen basics in stores (or if going to a grocery store just isn’t in the cards for you right now) check out some other kinds of places. Since farmers markets can’t really happen everywhere, some local farmers are struggling to get their products sold. Buying directly from them allows you to support local businesses and gets you high quality ingredients at the same time. Additionally, some bars or restaurants have been acting as a middle man for farmers and consumers, selling those basics since they can’t be open themselves. Many of these such places have curbside pickup or even a slick little deal where you can call them and they’ll come out to your car and put the product right into your trunk for you. Maximum safety.

Hang in there. There’s a lot of information floating around, and a lot of it’s wrong. Read articles all the way through before posting them. My personal rule is that if something COVID-19 related was published more than three days ago, I look for something more recent. What we know changes so rapidly. We don’t even know what we don’t know?

I’ve also seen a lot of conversations about how staying home is a privilege that a lot of people don’t have, so we should be grateful that we get to stay home. While this is true in many cases and is absolutely a conversation that needs to be had, it’s also discouraging for a lot of disabled and chronically ill people to hear. Please keep that in mind when you have those conversations. For one thing, it’s literally life and death for a lot of us. It’s not a privilege or a choice if one of the “choices” means you die a horrible death. This whole lifestyle of social distancing and isolation is how many of us have to live our lives on a regular basis. If we had a dollar for every time someone said “oh my gosh, you’re so lucky you don’t have to work,” we wouldn’t need disability pay (speaking of which, if you’re concerned about how to make a $1,200 check from the government last a long time and cover what you need it to cover, ask a disabled person; it’s their reality 24/7, not just during an international crisis). We’ve been asking for these work-from-home accommodations for years, only to be told it would be too difficult, or even impossible. So we can’t work, we get fired, or we just suffer through it and make ourselves sicker. But now it turns out it was possible all along, it’s just that no one wanted to put the work into implementing those possibilities until they affected “normal,” healthy people. We all knew this, but it’s a whole new feeling to see it played out.

Pale woman with green eyes and dark brown curly hair. Her hair is tied back and she has sunglasses on the top of her head. She’s wearing a jungle print N95 mask. The background is blurred and she is outside on a sunny day.
Oh hey, it’s me.

If you see someone wearing an N95 mask out in public, going about their business, don’t treat them badly or tell them they’re being selfish or inconsiderate. A lot of us have those masks from before the pandemic and will continue to need them after this is over. Keep in mind that a lot of chronically ill, disabled, or immunocompromised people look completely healthy.

Foaming dark colored apple cider syrup in a small, shallow pot on the stove.

What’s this blog about again? Right, baking. Got it. Moving on.

Since things are so weird right now, my posts might be a little weird too. I’m stressed out. I’ve been doing a ton of baking, but I hesitate to post recipes that involve tons of ingredients. So for now, let’s go with this-

The same apple cider syrup, but without the foam because it has passed that stage.

Simple syrup! It’s good for all kinds of things! I already posted some in my Sparkling Apple Cider Cupcake recipe, in fact. You can use them in baked goods, cocktails, mocktails, non-alcohol-adjacent beverages, candies, whipped cream, the list goes on. And it’s really, well, simple to make.

White sugar and water in a small, shallow pot on the stove. The sugar has not dissolved, so the layers are separated.

The basic ratio is equal parts sugar and water. That’s it. You can adjust for volume or taste as needed. And then you can infuse it with any flavor you want. I honestly don’t even measure the infused ingredients anymore, that’s how easy it is. Just do whatever the hell you want.

The same sugar and water from the previous picture, but the sugar has dissolved so the liquid is now clear.

All you do is combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan on the stove (1 cup of each is a pretty safe amount). Bring it up to a very light simmer while gently stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Keep it clear; we’re not making caramel. At this point, you can add whatever flavors you’d like to infuse. Let them simmer together for about two minutes, then remove from heat and allow those flavors to meld together in the pan for a couple of hours. It’s a set it and forget it sort of thing.

Dried lavender and two sprigs of rosemary in a small, shallow pot on the stove. They are floating in dissolved sugar and water.
Isn’t that beautiful?

I gravitate toward flavor profiles that include something fruity or floral, and a savory herb. My favorite so far is lavender rosemary (which is excellent in lemonade).

Bright pink liquid in a clear glass pitcher. In front of the pitcher, there is a small plate of sugar cookies with dried flowers baked into the tops. There are two sprigs of rosemary propped against the plate at a diagonal. The background is blurred.
The lavender turns the lemonade that color! It’s the best.

I recently did strawberry and basil (as pictured at the very top of this post), which is also delightful.

Very light pink whipped cream in a small glass bowl on a wooden table.
Strawberry basil simple syrup turns whipped cream the lightest baby pink and packs it with concentrated strawberry flavor.

Sometime soon I’d like to try cinnamon orange. Or lemon blueberry mint. Or cherry rose vanilla. (Okay, there are lots of combos I want to try.)

A closeup of the completed strawberry basil syrup. It is dark pink and looks sparkly due to tiny bubbles in the liquid.

When you’re ready, strain out the liquid and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it! There’s a reason it’s called “simple” syrup.


Simple Syrup

🥄; makes 1 cup, but can be increased or decreased as needed

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • herbs, spices, fruits, etc. for infusing

1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan on the stove.

2. Slowly bring up to a light simmer, while stirring, until the sugar has visibly dissolved.

3. Add infusing ingredients and simmer for two minutes (if you’re making more than 1 cup, increase the simmering time by 1-2 minutes per cup).

4. Remove from heat and leave ingredients in the pan (preferably covered, but that part isn’t necessary) for several hours.

5. Strain. Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

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