When my son was 4, he begged for a SlapChop for Christmas. It was all he wanted Santa to bring - and he did. It was a disappointment - I'll never forget the look on his little face when it didn't work as cleanly and effortlessly as the commercial promised. In later years, my sister bought him an apple peeler/corer/slicer from for his birthday, and he later asked for a pasta machine. It's true - my 9 year old actually likes kitchen gadgets, and so this year I used it as an excuse to get something I've been on the fence about, but secretely wanting an excuse to get - a SodaStream,
It was a hit. It's serendipitous that the boys were at home when it arrived, and when I got home they were anxiously sitting in the kitchen, admiring the machine out of the box, waiting for me to OK them giving it a whirl. If it had sat wrapped under the tree until Christmas, we wouldn't have been able to use it throughout the holidays for our parties and gatherings.
And it's good timing - SodaStream Canada recently launched a better water challenge, encouraging Canadians to increase their water intake by swapping their regular beverages for pure sparkling water in response to a recent survey about our water consumption. The survey showed 52 per cent consume less than five glasses per day on average - and I count myself in that group. Most people prefer sparkling water, and most of my friends and family who have SodaStreams use it primarily as a source for neverending sparkling water. It's something I like to have on hand too - there are so many things to do with it, and I do love not going through the packaging of bottles and cans. Even if they are recycled - that takes materials and energy too
SodaStream does have a line of flavoured syrups that make pop lower in sugar than most of the bottled stuff - but the home cook in me wants to make my own. Slices of fresh ginger simmered in a simple syrup for homemade ginger ale? Hello. Add a sprig of rosemary or thyme and you have a really fancy flavoured syrup that's divine in a gin & tonic. (In fact, my favourite tonic concentrate requires sparkling water - talk about a match made in heaven.)
A page of my latest cookbook, Gatherings, is dedicated to simple syrups; those bottles of flavoured syrups standing at the ready at Starbucks to customize everything from iced tea to your morning latte are easy to make at home. Simple syrup got its name for a reason; equal amounts of sugar and water are simply simmered – add some loose tea or slices of fresh ginger and you have a flavoured syrup. Once cooled, syrup keeps for ages in the fridge, and can be used to make homemade sodas (just add fizzy water – and a scoop of ice cream for an authentic float), flavour cocktails, infuse Prosecco or lemonade, or make coffee or hot chocolate more interesting. It’s nice to have a few bottles at the bar – or to set out with sparkling water for DIY sodas.
It's perfect for holiday entertaining - and for drinking more water all year long.
Flavoured Simple Syrup
Use any quantity of sugar and water, so long as you use the same amount of each.
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
1 cup (250 mL) water
Your choice of flavours:
thinly sliced fresh ginger
a handful of fresh mint leaves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with the tip of a knife
grated zest of an orange or lemon
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) loose tea leaves
a couple cinnamon sticks
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or basil
a few sprigs of fresh lavender
Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add your flavouring of choice and simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat and let cool – the syrup will steep as it cools, intensifying in flavour.
Pour the syrup through a strainer or sieve into a jar, cover and store in the fridge for up to a few months.
Makes about 1 ½ cups.
*SodaStream sent me a unit to try out, but all opinions are, as always, my own.