Syrup is a usually a thick, sweet tasting, viscous and mostly sticky liquid that may be put to various culinary and sometimes medicinal use. There are a number of ways to define a syrup –
- A concentrated sugar (e.g. sucrose) solution in water or other aqueous liquids, often with some medicinal agent added usually for the purpose of masking the taste of the drug or acting as a flavoured vehicle for drugs e.g. an oral suspension of antacid or a cough syrup.
- A thick, rather sweet, sticky liquid made of a sugar base with water and including some natural or even artificial flavouring.
- A syrup that is formed out of the juice of a fruit boiled with sugar and maybe water until very thick and sticky which could be used for preserving fruit.
Types of Syrup
As such, there are a large number of Syrup varieties and most of them serve the purpose of some form of sweetening agent. Some of the commonly used ones are-
1. Sugar Syrup – Simply prepared by combining sugar in water and boiling to attain a thick, sticky consistency. This can be used as a sweetening agent especially in drinks like a sweet lime soda.
2. Honey – Is a naturally occurring syrup, often used in place of sugar, as a sweetener, in a wide array of dessert preparations, drinks, sauces, marinades, as toppings over ice-creams, pancakes etc.
3. Molasses – Is the thick, viscous dark brown coloured syrup obtained during the process of sugar refining. It is formed by boiling pure sugar cane juice.
4. Sorghum Molasses – Similar to regular molasses but made from juice of sweet sorghum.
5. Golden syrup or Treacle – A pale-coloured cane syrup
6. Grenadine – A somewhat thinner syrup made from pomegranate juice, commonly used to sweeten and flavour mixed drinks.
7. Maple Syrup – Is prepared by concentrating the sap from maple trees.
8. Corn Syrup – Is evidently prepared from corn, in fact it is made from corn starch by way of an enzymatic process that converts it to sugars.
Use of Syrups
Based on their uses, syrups may be broadly classified as –
(a) Syrups used in Beverages and (b) Culinary Syrups
Syrups in Beverages
A variety of beverages invite the use of sweetening agents in order to offset the tartness of some juices often used in many drink recipes. It is true that granulated sugar does not dissolve very easily or as quickly in cold drinks or drinks containing ethyl alcohol. Thus using liquid syrups, makes the process easier, as they readily merge with other liquids in a number of mixed drinks. Syrups therefore are more suitable to use as well as make for a superior alternative to regular granulated sugar.
Basic sugar-and-water syrup is commonly used to make drinks at bars. A simple syrup is prepared by stirring granulated sugar into hot water within a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved and then the solution is cooled. It is found that in these syrups, generally, the ratio employed, of sugar to water can be anywhere between 1:1 to 2:1. Simple syrup acts an efficient sweetener. Further, since it develops a gel consistency readily once pectin is added, its principal culinary use becomes that of a base for jams, fruit sauces, preserves and toppings.
Flavoured syrups are obtained by simply adding flavouring agents to a simple syrup. For e.g., syrupus aromaticus is basically a syrup, prepared by the addition of certain specific quantities of orange flavouring and also some cinnamon water to a simple syrup. This kind of syrup finds use at places like coffee bars, to make flavoured drinks.
Gomme syrup (i.e. gum syrup as ‘gomme’ is French for "gum") is an ingredient used commonly in mixed drinks. In Japan, it is often used as a sweetener for iced coffee or tea. Like simple syrups, it is essentially a sugar - water mixture, but makes use of an additional ingredient - gum Arabic, which plays the role of an emulsifier. In fact, Gomme syrup is prepared using the highest ratio of sugar to water possible. The gum Arabic plays key roles in preventing the sugar from crystallizing and also adds a smooth desirable texture.
Different varieties of honey display great versatility as an ingredient in cooking and their inherent unique essences influence the taste and flavour of foods substantially. Further, honey's many flavor complexities actually go beyond its simple sweet taste.
Apart from its common usage as a natural sugar-substitute in tea, coffee and certain other commercial beverages, honey has a number of other culinary uses too-
· Used in Sauces such as honey mustard and honey barbeque
· Used in baking muffins, cakes, tarts, cookies
· Used to enhance taste of cold-meat dishes like ham, turkey, chicken etc.
· Used as an effective spread or topping on toasts, pancakes etc.
· Used in marinades especially in sweet and spicy tasting main dishes like Honey Chinese BBQ pork and others
Nutritional Value of Honey
Honey is a 100% natural and safe product made by bees from the nectar present in flowers. Thus, it is of vegetable origin and is a highly concentrated source of energy. It has a very high content (about 70% or more) of simple, readily digestible sugars - glucose, fructose and sucrose. This is what makes it an excellent energy source.
Honey is predominantly sugars with only trace amounts of vitamins or minerals. Occasionally Vitamins A, D, K and small amounts of B-vitamins and Vitamin C may be obtained. Honey also offers tiny amounts of a number of compounds thought to function as antioxidants. These include vitamin C, chrysin, pinobanksin, pinocembrin and the enzyme catalase. The specific composition of a given batch of honey eventually depends upon the flowers from which the bees gathered nectar that produced that honey.
Maple Syrup obtained from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees is graded based on its density and translucency. Sucrose is the principal sugar in maple syrup. Owing to its unique flavour, maple syrup is often consumed along with the likes of French toast, pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal and even with porridge. It is often used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetening or flavouring agent. Maple syrup may be combined with orange juice and soy sauce to make a marinade for baked tofu or cottage cheese.
Maple syrup contains fewer calories and has a higher concentration of minerals than even honey. Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Manganese is an essential component (as co-factor) in a number of enzymes playing important roles in energy production and antioxidant defences. Both zinc and manganese are important to normal immune system functions.