Cereal syrups, Other vegetable syrups: Agave, Stevia, Maple tree, Gynger syrup, Imagination & Syrups, Recipe 1
To flavor foods in a different way, whenever you want to eat sugar, you can use syrups prepared from a variety of plants and vegetables.
Cereal syrups They are usually prepared with wheat, corn, barley, or rice because they use the capacity of their starch to transform themselves into glucose (sugar) when they are fermented. Most of the time, syrups are « soré » the brown color from Middle Ages, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker, depending on the cereal. Their taste also is also varied, some are stronger than others. Depending on which cereal is used, the syrup is translucent, amber-coloured, brown or dark brown, especially if the cereal is rice.
Cereals contain more minerals than traditional sugar, have fewer calories and their taste is so good and rich that we don’t need to consume a lot.
Amasake, an Asian preparation, results from sweet rice and koji mixed togethe ; koji is fermented rice. Amasake is also a sweet syrup.
With « sorghum » a cereal well known now in Africa but present in Europe in ancient Roman times, it’s also possible to prepare sugar syrup.
Other vegetable syrups Agave, a Mexican cactus, stevia, from South America, maple trees, ginger and palm trees give us their sugar too.
Agave syrup comes from the sap from the heart of the plant. There are more than 130 varieties of agave in Mexico. They live from 8 to 15 years. Agave is also used to prepare tequila. Syrup can be light or dark, depending of the degree of filtering, so its taste will vary in strength.
Stevia comes from north-east Paraguay. Spanish conquistadores brought the plant to Europe in the 16th century but it was rediscovered in Europe at the end of the 19th century. American Indians use it very commonly as sugar.
Some years ago, Canada began an important research program to increase the culture of this plant, stevia, which really contains sugar.
We can’t think about maple tree without thinking about Canada, because this tree is the symbol of this country. And when we think about maple syrup, we think about pancakes. The sap of the maple tree contains a lot of minerals and is less caloric than honey.
Ginger syrup comes specially from China. The palm tree, from which the sap is used to prepare the syrup, is grown in Asia, South America, North Africa and Middle-East.
When you cook with these syrups, you consume less sugar and you get the benefits of these differents plants used to prepare them.
Imagination and syrups go well together: apple, pear, beetroot, sugar-cane are used to prepare classical syrups but a lot of different ways exist too: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, whortleberry, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, chocolate, nougat, caramel, cotton candy, flowers, spices, are some of the contents used by gourmands all over the world. The less traditional syrups are good to drink or to give a special touch to a dish. I’ll write a guide about them because what a pity if sugar gourmands will want detailed directions to know where to go in such a luscious labyrinth.
Recipe 1 – Syrup party
In advance prepare nice invitation cards. On them draw the plants used to prepare all the syrups you will provide. When you mail your invitations, don’t forget to ask everybody to bring a nice « pot luck » dish (salad, vegetable, cakes, etc.) to share, plus a small container. At the end of the delicious meal you’ve shared together, put some home-made yogurt into the containers brought by your guests. Offer each person, depending on his taste and smell preferences to try one of your syrups, and taste them with cakes, biscuits, pancakes and all the sweeties which close this feast.