Sometimes things just come together in the most meant-to-be ways. This is one of those times for me, a confluence of several things that I love all wrapped up in one beautiful book-shaped package.
As someone who imagines herself a food writer, I enjoy reading other blogs, magazines and books dedicated to the same. I read cookbooks cover to cover like I'm reading a great novel. I borrow stacks of them from the library only to be sad when its time to return them. I've been guilty of hoarding stacks and stacks of food magazines because there's just one recipe in each of them that I might use sometimes. Then there's the ever expanding list of food blogs that I love. And it's not necessarily the recipes that draw me in, it's the voice of the writer. The way that you can get a sense of the person in the stories they tell and the food that they share. It's partly why I do what I do- that sense of the person and history I could always feel in the generation of women before me and that was itching to find a home on a page, screen and photograph.
One serendipitous day about a year and half ago I was reading one of the blogs that was delivered to me via email. This lovely woman with a talent for giving was writing a book and would anyone care to be a part of a community of recipe testers? I had a moment of pause, thinking about all the reasons that I shouldn't or couldn't- the fact that I was pregnant and exhausted, living outside the US where some ingredients might not be available and just not knowledgeable enough to give feedback on someone else's recipes. Then realized that this would be an opportunity to have a little fun, maybe use my brain for something other than remembering my kids' schedules and just maybe learn a thing or two about recipe writing and the process of book development. And the theme of the book interested me- recipes for food gifting- a thing that I happen to enjoy doing with a passion. So I signed up and was selected.
I was right. It was all of those things and more. Because as I tested I learned how to make my own recipes better while helping Maggie perfect hers. I found recipes that have actually become part of my regular repertoire (batch after batch of the granola that I tested has been in a jar on my counter since the day I first made it) and I became invested in the project. It became a little bit mine. So now that the book has become a reality and I have it in my hands, I can't put it down. Nearly every page is tagged with a reminder that I want to make that recipe, like now.
I started with the one that might just be the most "me". It's no secret that I am a bit obsessed with tea and have at least a half dozen recipes dedicated to my favorite drink on this page already. Chai being my favorite way to shake up my tea, I knew that this Cider-Chai Syrup was right up my alley. Food Gift Love might be a book about gifting, but I'm not sure that I'm going to share this with anyone. At least not this first batch. It's all mine.
But I am sharing something besides the recipe today. I pulled together a few little bits and baubles from my favorite stores here in Germany. Some pretty little Weck jars, stickers, gift tags and decorations that will give one lucky reader's holiday food gifts a little German flair.
Makes about 3 cups. Recipe from Food Gift Love, by Maggie Batista
For the printable recipe, click here.
This is a lovely little gift to give the tea lover in your life. Find a pretty jar, a bit of old ribbon and a fun tag to present the syrup in. Maggie suggests adding 2 tablespoons of the syrup to a cup of hot water for a delicious warm drink. A splash of whiskey makes it into a hot toddy. I didn't happen to have loose chai tea in my cupboard so I used my favorite loose leaf black tea (assam) and added in ground spices typical of chai. I've added my variation to the recipe for those of you who can't find loose chai tea.
4 cups (32 ounces) apple cider
4 tbs loose chai tea*
1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
*If loose chai tea isn't available, you can substitute 4 tbs loose black tea, such as assam, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1/8 tsp ground cloves and few grinds of black pepper.
Place the apple cider and chai tea in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let boil until the liquid is concentrated and reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
Strain out the chai tea through cheesecloth and return the cider to a cleaned saucepan. Add the sugar to the cider and boil over medium-high heat until dissolved, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Let the syrup cool at room temperature before bottling. Strain it through a coffee filter 1 or 2 times to remove any extra tea or spice bits for the cleanest presentation.
The syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.