Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Context: I've been having a lot more fun playing around with syrups after reading this PUNCH article last year. TL;DR Use every ingredient as an opportunity for maximum flavor; say hell no to H2O. This summer, that philosophy has been a focal point of mine, leading to a Spicy Lime Syrup that ended up being one of my favorites for its depth and complexity. Let's start by taking a look at the entry level model courtesy of Rick Bayless and Martha Stewart.
1 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and lime juice. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, until ready to use, up to 1 week.
Step One: "Priming The Sugar"
I'll attack the sugar here first. I wanted my sugar primed with fresh notes (none of the cooked citrus or vegetal notes that can develop if you heat the ingredients) so I sliced 7 lime wheels, diced 11/2 jalapenos (1 jalapeno with seeds) added a half cup of cilantro, and weighed the ingredients before packing them in an equal weight of Turbinado sugar (rather than granulated). The contents were covered and left at room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours, I removed the solids, leaving a mixture of sugar and oil.
Step Two: "Hell no H2O."
In lieau of water, I made a honey-lime tea. I prefer over-steeping the teas I use for these complex syrups. My palate enjoys the complexity of the bitter notes. Also with this style of syrup, there should always be enough sweetness to balance things out and create depth - even if the tea seems too bitter to salvage after 10 minutes of steeping.
The nose delivers a really nice harmony between the ingredients. Lots of depth from the earthy/bitter dried limes and jalapeno skin. Plenty of bright notes with the cilantro and fresh lime. It's full on the palate (almost as fat as a gomme syrup). The spice is VERY mild mid-plate and a floral note from the honey compliments it pleasantly. The finish is long with with faint heat, candied limes, and bitter-earthiness from the dried zest. I've made some fun/complex syrups this summer, but this is the most harmonious and well integrated.
I called it a Spicy Lime Syrup, but the truth is: it is extremely mild with the below ratios. Feel free to add more seeds or adjust ratios to your palate preference.
Spicy Lime Oleo Sacrum
7 Limes cut into wheels
1 1/2 Jalapenos (only include seeds from one)
1/2 cup Cilantro (stems and leaves)
Weigh above ingredients. Pack ingredients in an equal weight of Turbinado sugar. Cover and let 24 hours before removing the solids and retaining the undissolved sugar and oil.
1 tablespoon Dried Lime Zest
3/4 oz Honey
8 oz Water
10 minute infusion will produce a pretty earthy/bitter tea.
Add Honey-Lime Tea to the sugar and oil at a 1:1 ratio by weight with the sugar from the previous step. Mix until almost all the sugar is dissolved. If there is excess sugar after thorough mixing, let the sugar settle to the bottom and separate. This excess sugar can be used as a flavorful rim for drinks featuring the syrup.