It all began with some doug fir. I made a simple syrup (recipe here) with the bright tasting doug fir trimmings I foraged and was hooked. Then, as occurs with slippery slopes, I moved onto rhubarb. I wanted to hold on to this season for longer.
Most people who prefer a seasonal diet bend the rules because like me, they tend to have an inclination to preserve the harvest. To some, this rule bending might seem hypocritical, but to me, it’s just dynamic. Of course, we want to enjoy foods when they’re at their peak of freshness, first and foremost, but then we want to find a way to hold on to that bounty to enjoy it again long after its season has passed. Once I’m eating those foods in the winter, they’re clearly not in season anymore, but something about having had my hand in its existence makes it feel right. While having something shipped across continents and calling it “fresh” does not.
So, it was with this preservative spirit that I looked to the ice cube tray for assistance. I started making cubes out of the large quantities of nettle tea I had. I’d save it to use later in soups and beverages. Then, I started freezing simple syrup. This is when things got out of control. I’m normally not a soda drinker, but now that I’m making my own, I can’t get enough!
Here’s what I do. I pour the cooled simple syrup into an ice cube tray, freeze ‘em and then take them out of the tray and into a freezer bag when they’re solid to make room for more. You need a spoon for this part because they don’t pop out easy like normal ice cubes. They’re slightly softer, obviously stickier and mush together a little bit when in the freezer bag, but I’m ok with this kind of imperfection.
When you’re ready for a drink, each cube is the perfect quantity of syrup for a pint-sized drink! Just put a syrup cube into a pint glass. I like to let it thaw just a bit so I can incorporate the syrup into the soda by stirring. Fill the rest of the glass with infused ice cubes (more on that in July’s newsletter – sign up if you haven’t already!), top with plain sparkling water, and stir. Add a shot of 100% agave tequila when you feel like a nut, leave it non-alcoholic when you don’t. Insert fun straw into glass and enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Simple Syrup
3 heaping cups of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled
1/2 of a sweet, juicy orange
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
Put the fruit into a medium sauce pan. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 an orange over the fruit and add the sugar. Gently toss the fruit and sugar together until the fruit is nicely coated. Let it stand, off the heat, for a half hour while the rhubarb and strawberries macerate. Then, put the sauce pan over medium heat, add the water, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down. Strain the liquid from the rhubarb pulp using a fine mesh sieve, gently pushing some of the pulp through to give the syrup a little texture. Cool and pour into ice cube trays to freeze or store in the fridge in a mason jar to make beverages immediately.
Makes just under 1 quart.