19 October 2013

Pumpkin Pie Syrup

Like apparently every other girl my age, fall is my favorite season. In Tucson fall is more of a state of mind than an actual season, since 80% of our trees are cacti and palms (no changing leaves there) and a "brisk" day is 80 degrees, at least well into November. I love fall in theory though and I sometimes escape to Prescott for a few weekends to get my fix, bringing plenty of scarves and boots and tights and sweaters with me.
Prescott trip Fall '10
Something about this time of year seems to breathe new life into me, and I always start feeling really inspired, creative, motivated, and nostalgic for autumns gone by. I love waking up just as it's starting to get light and bundling up to take my dog out, I love the way every mirror and window in the house fogs up when I take a shower, I love sipping hot toddies and french press coffee and hot chocolate with the occasional shot of peppermint or butterscotch liqueur. I love remembering all the angsty autumns of my adolescence- chilly October nights wearing fingerless gloves and black nail polish, listening to hipster bands at the catalyst and crushing on boys with beards and sweaters (Hey, Stewie!) Although, that might have been what I did the whole time. Senior year was interesting. Regardless- fall is a familiar and exhilarating time, and every year as the temperatures drop and pumpkins start showing up in stores I get excited.

Speaking of pumpkins. Do you remember when 'pumpkin everything!' was not a thing? Sure, there was always pumpkin pie and maybe a novelty pumpkin spice latte here and there, but it was nothing like how it is now. I'm pretty sure the day Starbucks starts selling pumpkin drinks is the first day of fall in a lot of people's minds. And it's not just coffee- there's pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin mac and cheese, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin butter, pumpkin liquor, pumpkin doughnuts- if you can think of it, someone (or some company) has put pumpkin in it. It's nuts. I always start off the season rolling my eyes and thinking, "really guys? It's just a squash. Chill the f out", but after a few weeks in I'm like, "you know, a pumpkin latte actually does sound pretty good right now". Pumpkins have some really persuasive advertisers.

I considered just grabbing one at Starbucks on the way to class, but their drinks are usually too dense and sweet for my liking. I also looked at the ingredients for the syrup they use and it turns out there's nothing in it resembling pumpkin or spice, just high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings. There were lots of recipes for homemade versions online though, so I decided to just quickly whip one up yesterday. Making simple syrups is seriously easy and only takes like 15-20 mins- and now I have a big jar full of sweet, spicy bronze syrup for less than it would have cost me to buy a single drink at a coffee shop.

Pumpkin Pie Syrup 
makes about 2 cups
45 calories/1 tbsp serving

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

All you have to do is combine everything in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for 10-15 minutes until sugar is fully melted and syrup has reduced slightly. It will get even thicker as it cools.
Remove the cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaf, and if you want a really clear, pure syrup you can strain it through a wire mesh sieve. I don't have one of those so I tried filtering it with my french press and it kind of worked but not really since the syrup is so much thicker than water. It doesn't matter though, it's mostly for aesthetics.

I think this syrup would be good for lots of things, such as with pancakes, yogurt, oatmeal, ice cream, or mixed into a cocktail. The amount of sugar in it acts as a preservative so it should last (opened) for a couple weeks. I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure it could also be canned and stored for a few months.

Of course, I used it to make a pumpkin spice latte.
I used:
1 cup of original unsweetened almond milk, heated
1/2 cup strong coffee OR 1 shot of espresso
2 tbsp pumpkin pie syrup (I might use 1.5 next time, 2 was pretty sweet)

Calories: 122

Happy Fall :)