02 January 2014
New Year's hot pepper, ginger, and orange syrup
New Year's usually gets me in a "Where did we get so much STUFF?" frame of mind.
So the other day I sorted through the mishmash of random ingredients stuffed into our pantry cabinet and got rid of a lot of expired and otherwise not so great stuff. And along with the cans of tuna (which I made into an entirely delightful spicy tuna melt) and ancient half-eaten packages of rice noodles, I found a bag we'd bought at the farmer's market when we lived in New York--a bag still mostly full of dried hot cayenne peppers.
Obviously, spices are better when they're fresh, but these peppers are still usable. The real question is how we can use them up before they truly get too old. I definitely have some future soup broths in mind, for one thing. But in the meantime, how about a spicy syrup for delightful hot drink purposes?
John thought up this flavor combination. He originally wanted to make it into candy, but we don't have a candy thermometer, so. Syrup was a perfect backup plan, especially since it means that now we get to doctor our tea and hot whisky drinks at our leisure. It's definitely a great plan if, for instance, you have the other classic response to the new year: a sore throat and a stuffy nose.
The process is a takeoff on basic simple syrup. All you have to do is melt sugar in water and infuse it with hot peppers, fresh ginger, and orange. Strain your syrup, tip a spoonful into your cup of tea, and get ready for a blissfully warming sip.
Hot pepper, ginger, and orange syrup
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
3-4 dried hot peppers (or 1+ tbsp red pepper flake?)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
juice of 1 orange
Start the same way you'd make any simple syrup. Put your sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer, swirling occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
Add your hot peppers, ginger, and orange juice to the syrup. Cover the pan, leaving a small crack to let some steam escape, and continue to simmer slowly for about fifteen minutes. Check occasionally to see how much liquid has evaporated. When your syrup has thickened slightly, put on the pot's lid, turn off the heat, and let steep for another fifteen minutes or so.
Strain out the solids in a fine-mesh sieve, and you're done! You'll need to cool your syrup completely if you want to use it in cold cocktails, but otherwise, a spoonful or two of hot syrup can go straight into tea or toddy at your discretion. Pour the leftovers into your jar of choice, refrigerate, and use within a week or two.
Happy new year! What are you planning for 2014?