Thursday, September 24, 2009

(Tonic) Water of the Gods

So, remember when we bought the Penguin to make sparkley water? The main impulse-to-buy was because I had come across the technique for making Tonic Syrup (the base for tonic water) and wanted to try concocting :-)

I love tonic water - most often drinking it with nothing but a slice of citrus, all through the summer. Oh, I admit to splashing gin in there after 4:30 some days, but I really could drink tonic water everyday! I became a tonic water snob - disdaining cheap supermarket brands for interesting (and expensive!) boutique brands... finally ending up understanding that this obsession must mean it's time to make it myself...

After reading several "cocktail" blogs (and there are at least as many of those as there are knitting blogs!!) it was clear that there were as many ways to create tonic water as there were cooks; the only constant was an infusion of powdered cinchona bark in water. Then, I realized that the most difficult step was going to be acquiring the Cinchona Bark powder (aka: Quinine Bark) as it's not readily available at Walgreens. Cinchona is the magic, bitter ingredient that inhibits muscle cramps, fever, and the mosquito-born virus, malaria. I ended up ordering it from here.

Cinchona belongs to the Rubiacae family which also includes coffee and gardenias! It is believed to have gotten its name from the Countess of Chinchon, wife of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru, who in 1638 fell desperately ill with malaria. Fortunately, she was cured using the ancient herbal remedy of "quinquina" bark, and in her honor, the tree was named Cinchona (Hobhouse,1987).

While playing in the kitchen, here's what I came up with:
In a 4 -5 qt pot on the stove, combine the following:
  • 4 c. filtered (and vitalized!) water
  • 1/4 c. cinchona bark powder
  • 1/4 c. citric acid (another internet order, which I had because we used it to make fizzy bath balls a few years ago!)
  • zest & juice of 1 lime +1 lemon +1 orange
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs slightly crushed juniper berries
  • 2 1/2 dropperfuls - maybe a tbs. - of (my sister-in-laws best!) Bitters

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer 20 minutes or so. Your house will smell delicious! Remove from heat, let cool down! and strain. The cinchona powder is very fine, so I poured all this into my French Press pot, let it settle a few minutes before plunging to strain it, while I washed out the cooking pot and put it back on the stove with
  • 4 c. organic cane sugar
Pour the cinchona infusion over the sugar in the pot. Bring it back to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. My first batch simmered enough to "jell" a bit, but it is still "tasty woo" as Jonathan declares!

To make Tonic Water:
  • 1 oz. tonic syrup + 3 oz. sparkley water

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