Monday, April 26, 2010

Cook For Hire


Since I've had someone else making some of my syrups for me, I've had a lot more free time. So when Erick Castro of Rickhouse texted me asking if I make a cranberry syrup, I answered "No... but I could make some. You want?"

I figured hey, I know fruit and I know sugar. I've made red currant syrup; how different could it be?

Sometimes my arrogance bites me in the ass.

I started the same as with red currants. I washed the cranberries, covered them with water, and simmered them over low heat until they were soft and beginning to fall apart. I strained the mixture through a chinois then dissolved in some sugar. It tasted good, so I threw it in a bottle. Seemed easy enough.
Yet as it cooled, I noticed something funny. The syrup had a strange, clumpy texture, like not-fully-dissolved Jell-O mix. I had fine-strained the whole thing, so there had to be something happening in the making that caused a reaction.

Then I thought about cranberry sauce. You know, the jellied stuff that slides out of a can and is the atrocity of so much Thanksgiving Americana.



Here are the ingredients for Grown Right Organic Jellied Cranberry Sauce:
Organic Cranberries, Organic Sugar, Water and Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate, Organic Aroma Concentrate and Natural Fruit Pectin


And this is what it looks like out of the can.






Despite its appearance, there isn't gelatin in the mixture; it's the pectin in the cranberries (plus extra pectin, for help) that bind with each other and form a big jellied mass.

Most pectin in fruit occurs in the skins, pith and viscera that surrounds the seeds. So I think that pressing the solids through the chinois while the mixture was hot, the pectin, dissolved into the syrup at that point, flowed through the sieve. Then when it cooled, the high amount of pectin bound up again, causing the weird gelatinous globules.

So I ended up doing a crude method of fining on my next batch, sans egg whites or oxblood. After simmering, I let the whole mass cool, undisturbed. The skins, seeds and pulp rose to the top and formed a thick, gloppy mass. It ended up being pretty easy to scoop off, as long as I skimmed off every trace of thick, foamy stuff.

And once I added sugar, the resultant syrup was smooth, flavorful and thick without being gloppy.

Does this mean you can now get a Cosmopolitan at Rickhouse?

2 comments:

H. said...

Try a Cosmo with your syrup and Square One Botanical. Maybe that will make it's way to Rickhouse...

AlchemistGeorge said...

another approach - a far more complicated approach - is to add 'pectinase' - to the warm (not hot) solution. Its an enzyme that breaks pectin down into sugars and some other things that will settle out - this is commonly used in wine making (especially fruit wines) and in clarifying fruit juices. After the enzymes do their thing, you 'rack' the solution (draw it off from the top without disturbing the sediment)

Unfortunately my "fermentation library" is in storage, so I can't tell you how fast it works - many hours to a few days, the starting solution couldn't be too hot. If you want to try this, you can get the stuff at Oak Barrel Winecraft, 1443 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA