Have you have discovered a fruit and then become obsessed with? That’s the story of my relationship with citron, aka Buddha’s hand. I had never seen it and suddenly it was everywhere last winter. One of the fascinating thing about citron is that it can be consumed like an orange because it has no juice. It is basically all zest and rind. Its limitation made it perfect for this Pineapple Citron syrup.
Citron has a zesty smell with floral overtones. It is the floral notes in its oil that I find most intoxicating when I cook with this lovely fruit. When I was thinking of how to balance the syrup, I decided to pair it with lemongrass. Lemongrass, as the name implies, has some of the same notes as lemon with grassiness. Smell is an important part of the experience of drinking. When I build my syrups, I am very conscious of the fact that there is a lot of sugar and sometimes limited palette for taste. By thinking about the nose, I can further enhance the experience of drinking.
The Pineapple Citron syrup is focused heavily on smell, but it also tastes smashingly good. I have always loved the way pineapple feels in the mouth. Chilling down that pineapple taste and then carbonating it makes a massive difference. That’s why for mixing the syrup, I chose crisp sparkling water.
One tip for making this syrup: The Pineapple Citron Syrup taste best when the pineapple is just about to rot. The whole and uncut pineapple is ready when you can smell it in the room and it starts to attract flies. Really! I usually buy a ripe pineapple from the store and just let it hangout in my house for a couple of weeks.
Pineapple Citron Syrup
A lovely pineapple syrup enhanced with the addition of citron and lemongrass. Perfect for mixing mocktails, cocktails and flavoring desserts.
Cut off the crown of the pineapple. Wash the skin of the pineapple thoroughly then chop the pineapple into chunks. Cut the citron into pieces as well. Smash the lemongrass open with a rolling pin or dull edge of a knife.
Arrange the pineapple, citron, and lemongrass in a medium pot. Pour the sugar over the mix and add in 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it boils, reduce heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
Let the syrup cool down in the pot for about 30 minutes. Strain out the syrup. Don’t be afraid to press down on the pulp in the pot to get the juices flowing out.
To get that super clear syrup, I strain a second time through two layers of coffee filter.
There are days when I get really frustrated and the way I communicate is by text to my dearest saying, “Today is a good day to drink.” I will usually get a response reminding me that I don’t drink alcohol and that it is not a good time to try. We laugh over it and I move on. Mostly, I get annoyed about my teetotal status when I dine out and my options are severely limited.
Alcohol is such a big part of many cultures. Due to the prominence of alcohol, it is so normal to see many alcoholic options on the menu. Even private functions often have varied options for alcoholic drinks. Non-alcoholic drinks tend to be very few with mostly soda. Many times I have gone for food-centric events that featured different kind of wines and beers but nothing for the non-drinker. Bartenders in their kindness would often offer me a cup of soda for free. Sometimes I am stuck drinking water because I just don’t want to drink soda.
Even when there are non-alcoholic menus at the restaurant, it tends to be designed more to suit the palette of a child. Hence, the ubiquitousness of Shirley Temple and other color heavy drinks with an overpowering presence of sugar. I don’t have anything against sugar. I just believe that it is possible to drink non-alcoholic drinks that are not overly reliant on sugar. There is a whole world of non-alcoholic drinks that can be created with complex flavor profiles.
One of my favorite ways to create complex flavors in drinks is to play with citrus. Citrus fruit like orange would feature a juicy center, white pith, and the skin/zest. Each part of the citrus has a different flavor that can be played up in a drink. The often sweet and acidic center is often the most used part of the citrus fruit. For me, I find that because I love bitterness as a flavor, the pith of the citrus fruit is valuable. The zest of the fruit often contains the oil as well as the scent of the fruit. Smell is a huge part of the experience of having a drink. By using the zest of citrus fruit in a drink, it is possible to greater sensual experience in a single drink.
This thought process is what inspires me to create drink mixes like this grapefruit thyme syrup. The use of the whole grapefruit in this recipe creates a balance of flavors without any harshness. The final taste of the drink can be manipulated by adding in other flavors and textures.
The easiest way to use this syrup is to mix it with sparkling water. By playing with the ratio of grapefruit thyme syrup to sparkling water, the flavor intensity of the drink can be manipulated. The syrup can also be used to add flavor to baked goods, either by soaking the baked goods or using it to make icing.
Rinse and cut the whole grapefruit into thin slice. Transfer into a jar with the thyme leaves
In a saucepan, add in 1 cup of water and the 2 cups of sugar. Bring the sugar solution to gentle simmer into the sugar crystals have melted. You now have syrup. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Pour the syrup over the grapefruit and thyme. Cover the grapefruit mixture with a tight lid. Place in a fridge for at least 12 hours. Preferably about 48 hours. This allows the grapefruit and thyme to infuse properly into the syrup.