Cookbook review: The Artisan Soda Workshop
Andrea Lynn offers more than 70 ideas for classic soda fountain to agua fresca recipes in 'The Artisan Soda Workshop.'
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For the Prickly Pear Agua Fresca, I was intrigued after reading about prickly pear punch earlier this summer on The Ravenous Couple’s blog and thought I might find some prickly pears in the supermarket in the Hispanic neighborhood near me. Sure enough, there was an unmarked basket of prickly pears, also known as cactus fruit or dessert figs, and I bought 16. Prickly pears are covered in fine needles that will embedded in your finger tips. I tried soaking the pears first and then wearing gardening gloves when I peeled them, but neither of these were much help!Skip to next paragraph
Kendra Nordin is a staff editor and writer for the weekly print edition of the Monitor. She also produces Stir It Up!, a recipe blog for CSMonitor.com.
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Peeling the pears is actually quite simple. You chop off both ends, slice about 1/4 inch through the flesh lengthwise, and peel. The peel comes off all in one piece and you are left with a bright magenta egg shape that has a consistency of a kiwi. Simply cut this up, and boil in a pot of water. Or you can purée the pulp and add to water or lemonade. (You can find a good pictorial guide on pealing prickly pears here.)
I put all 16 prickly pears in 6 cups of water and thought it would only take me 1/2 an hour to boil the syrup down to a cup, per Lynn’s measurements. But this did not happen. After an hour of simmering I still had a lot of water left. So I strained out the pulp and continued simmering another 40 minutes until I had about 1-1/2 cups of syrup.
When I added the agave syrup, and then added 2 tablespoons of the finished syrup to a glass of plain seltzer water, I felt the taste was too mild. In the end, I added the entire 1-1/2 cups of prickly pear syrup to 2 liters of lemon-lime seltzer. The added citrus taste was just enough to complement the prickly pear taste – faintly resembling bubblegum – without overpowering it.
Was it worth all the trouble to make my own soda? I’d say yes. First, they were a novelty among the regular plastic jugs of store bought soda lining the drinks table. Second, the bowls of magenta and pink punch with floating lime circles was pleasing to look at and inviting to try. Third, they tasted delicious and fresh!
So try artisan soda sometime and make a real treat for your dinner guests, friends, and family.
Fizzy Watermelon-Jalapeño Agua Fresca
Excerpted with permission from “The Artisan Soda Workshop” by Andrea Lynn
Yield: About 2 cups
Watermelon and jalapeño make for a great pairing of sweet and heat. The level of heat in individual jalapeños can vary quite a bit, so you may want to taste as you go to get a sense of the spice level. Jalapeño seeds contain a lot of the pepper’s punch, so make sure to include them.
Jalapeño simple syrup
1 jalapeño, chopped, seeds included
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2-1/2 cups cubed watermelon
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice