Sunday, 16 September 2012

Gingerbread syrup

Admission time - I'm a big Christmas fanatic. Yes, I know it's only September, but X Factor has started, the first Strictly Come Dancing was on last night, and it's dark by 7.30pm, so to me that means Christmas is on it's way.

I mentioned before I'm on a tight budget, which means I start Christmas shopping early in order to help me spread the cost across the whole year. It also means I get some bargains because I buy things when I see them - especially when I see them in sales!!

I also like to make homemade gifts - in the past I've made movie hampers (using a homemade record bowl, filled with Christmas DVDs and popcorn), pinecone firelighters, saltdough decorations, children's 'make your own bird feeder' kits and today's make - Gingerbread Syrup.

In fact, I first started making this a few years ago, not to give as gifts, but because my hubby and I are big Starbucks fans and especially their festive 'Red Cups'. Our favourite Starbucks cup is the Gingerbread Latte, but we can't afford to drink them too often (especially as a trip there now involves drinks and cakes for Mini and Dollop too), and we really missed them at the end of the festive season one year. So I searched for a recipe for something I could use at home instead. After lots and lots of making, coffee-drinking and testing, I came up with the following recipe. Incidentally, this syrup is great over icecream and in hot chocolate too. If you want to gift it, then you can buy pretty bottles, or use empty, clean ketchup bottles!

4 cups granulated sugar (for this and the water I use a standard coffee cup)
2 cup water
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sterilised glass bottles*

Put the sugar and water into a very large saucepan over a low heat. Gently stir until the sugar is dissolved to make a basic sugar syrup.

Add the spices and vanilla, then turn the heat up to medium, allowing the syrup to boil until it thickens slightly...til it's the consistency of something like maple syrup (runnier than goldren syrup), almost like washing up liquid! Don't worry if you get foamy stuff on top, though you can skim it if you wish. At this stage you can also strain through muslin if you like - but you don't have to.

Leave the syrup to cool slightly, remove the cinnamon stick if you haven't already strained the syrup, then pour into the sterilised bottles. Once cool, add a label. In coffee, we find that we use just enough to cover the bottom of the mug, and we love it with both instant or ground coffee. And we find it keeps best in a cool dark place, not the fridge.

*the best way I've found is to wash the bottles in hot soapy water, then rinse and put into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to about 140C, and 'cook' the bottles for around 15minutes. Fill whilst they are still hot. Hot liquid poured into cold bottles can cause the glass to crack or worse, explode.

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