Homemade Orange Soda Syrups

So I got some oranges. About eighty pounds in all. This sweet bounty comes to me each spring, courtesy of my neighbor’s enormous navel orange tree, which you can see in a post from last year. That post was all about learning to preserve orange slices in syrup. This year’s experiment leaves out the slices and focuses on the syrup by itself — which is both easier and more practical, in my view. Plus, I am still hopelessly dialed in to the homemade-soda-syrup channel. I want to make syrup out of everything, so I hope you’ll bear with my obsession until it runs its course.

Below, you’ll find a recipe for simple orange syrup, plus three variations: orange mint, orange cardamom, and orange elderflower. As noted in a Gilt Taste article about flavoring your own syrups, it’s tough to hopelessly screw up a syrup. You can, however, make them better or worse. My first attempt at basic orange syrup relied on a recipe in one of the preserving books I have here at home, and it didn’t turn out at all well. (To be honest, when I read the recipe I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work, but I waded in anyway. I wanted to believe.) That syrup was too thin and too tart. I got better results using the method described in the Gilt Taste article, making a few tweaks to suit my taste.

Oh! Here’s a diversion . . .

See that tiny hand-juicer in the photo above? Not recommended for juicing eighty pounds of oranges. It was the only option I had, until I borrowed a commercial citrus press from a friend. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference, particularly when it comes to repetitive stress injuries. I was amazed, too, by the difference in the amount of juice extracted from each orange. The press really smashes them flat, and fast!

Anyway. There are so many kinds of orange syrup to make. I chose my variations based on what I had on hand, including these three big bags of dried, edible flowers that were recently gifted to me. (Was that a luck out or what? These aren’t just any old flowers. They are organic elderflowers, rose petals, and jasmine blossoms from Mountain Rose Herbs. My chef friend didn’t have an immediate use for them, so now I have to figure out a few.)

There’s also fresh spearmint in the garden, so I chose to use that.

The following variations were also suggested to me: orange ginger, orange whiskey, orange shiso (I’m growing shiso, too, it’s just not quite ready yet), orange vanilla — and I’d also like to try orange jasmine with those blossoms I got. You can probably think of other promising combinations. Share them in the comments if you will!

Simple Orange Syrup

4 heaping tablespoons orange zest
1 cup fresh-squeezed, strained orange juice
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon citric acid

1. Wash, zest, and squeeze enough oranges to yield 1 cup of juice. (You can use long ribbons of zest, as shown in the photo above. If you end up with a little more or less zest than called for, that’s fine.) Strain the juice and set it aside.

2. Blanch the zest in a small pan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and repeat. (This reduces bitterness.)

3. Combine the water, sugar, citric acid, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat and simmer steadily until the mixture noticeably thickens, about 15 minutes. (If you wonder about the citric acid, it’s there to add tartness and also to help the syrup keep longer in the fridge. It’s not always easy to find, though I have heard that you can find it at some Whole Foods markets, in the body care section. I got mine at a middle-eastern grocery store. You can also order it online. If you can’t find citric acid, you can sub a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.)

4. Remove the syrup from the heat and strain out the orange zest. Add up to 1 cup of the fresh juice to the syrup. (Exactly how much to use depends on the taste and consistency you prefer. I found myself stopping slightly shy of a cup and drinking the rest.)

5. Allow the syrup to cool before transferring it to a container for the fridge. (Oh, I should say that I strained mine again as I bottled it, this time through a clean, scalded cloth. But that was kind of compulsive.) It will keep for weeks, but I bet you won’t have it around long enough to find out how many. If I feel like I have too much for the refrigerator, I tuck the extra into the freezer.

Makes 2-3 cups.

Orange Mint Syrup

As above, plus three 5″ sprigs of fresh spearmint. Tear up the mint and add it to the pot about five minutes after the syrup has begun to simmer. Strain out the mint with the orange zest when the syrup is done, at Step 4.

Orange Cardamom Syrup

As above, plus 15 cracked cardamom pods. Add the cardamom to the pot about five minutes after the syrup has begun to simmer. Strain out the cardamom with orange zest when the syrup is done, at Step 4.

Orange Elderflower Syrup

As above, plus 3/4 cup dried elderflower blossoms. Add the blossoms to the pot about five minutes after the syrup has begun to simmer. Strain out the blossoms with the orange zest when the the syrup is done, at Step 4.

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38 comments to Homemade Orange Soda Syrups

  • Orange chile. Orange CHILE. ORANGE CHILE. :)

    (and p.s. I’m loving those little bottles. Did you buy them, or re-purpose?)

  • I am IN LOVE with cardamom and have been looking for some good uses for pods I bought recently. Thank you! I can’t wait to try this :)

    • Shae

      This is a great way to use those pods. You can change the amount based on your own taste. For my first batch, I used only 10 pods and could hardly taste the cardamom, so I needed to bump it up. If you try this, please come back and share how it goes!

  • Donna

    Thanks for the recipe! A request…the elderberry link is broken…I’m hankering to plant some pristine elderberry, any ideas? Plants or seeds ~ Thanks!

    • Shae

      Thanks, Donna! I fixed the link, though you’ll see it goes only to bulk, dried spices and flowers. Elderberries aren’t common here, so I’m probably not the best person to ask about a source. That said, I did accidentally receive some very nice wild elderberry bushes from Pinetree Nursery in Maine. (How they came to me is a long story, but they were nice plants. I gave them to a friend who has a proper space for them.) Raintree Nursery in Washington also has nice varieties.

  • Not sure how you feel about fennel, but I once (hesitantly) made an orange and fennel salad that turned out to be fabulous. Maybe infuse some orange syrup with fennel seeds?

  • Tara Eagle

    I LOVE Lebanese style lemonade which is basic homemade lemonade with the addition of some Orange Blossom Water (a very traditional lebanese ingredient along with Rose Blossom Water) It just gives it this subtle- extra refreshing taste in MY opinion…

    I wonder if you could make Lemon syrup enhanced with Orange Blossoms– If you can– I guarantee it will be great!

    • Shae

      That’s a delicious possibility, Tara. I will keep my eye out for orange-blossom water. It’s something that could make a nice addition to lots of preserves, I bet.

  • 2kewlgypsy

    A quarter of vanilla been in the orange recipe makes it just cream-sicle enough for me! Love it, and thanks for the recipes! We will be playing quite a bit with our soda siphons now, the kids love this concoction.

    • Shae

      Orange, vanilla — yes! I experimented with a creamsicle jam that had a really nice flavor. The texture wasn’t everything I wanted, but I’m on board with the flavors, for sure.

  • jill

    I’m curious what ratio you use when you are mixing your water/syrup. I realize it’s personal preference but I’m new to the SodaStream and would just like an idea to go by.

    • Shae

      Ah! Mine varies day to day, and by the sweetness/flavor strength of the syrup. I might start with a couple of tablespoons and increase from there if need be. Others might feel very differently about it; I’m kind of a sweet hound. :-)

  • suzanne

    Will this water bath can? i’d love to make more than just a small jar for wintertime and especially for Christmas gifts. I’m thinking of making some with stevia too. Growing the plant. I”ve made jams with stevia and sugar, so would the syrup be preservable?

    • Molly B

      I was wondering that as well.

    • Shae

      Hi Suzanne and Molly: With all that orange juice and citric acid, I would think it would be just fine for canning. But here’s my disclaimer: Because I made these syrups for fridge and freezer, I didn’t formally test the acidity. I may do that later this week and, if so, I’ll report back.

      • Shae

        I checked with a food scientist friend who deemed these recipes safe for canning, and (to satisfy my curiosity) I used a pH meter to test the elderflower version. The pH was 3.09, well within the safe-to-can range. (A recipe needs to be under 4.6 to be acidic enough for water-bath canning.) I’d probably process ten minutes for pint jars. Here are some recommended times for canning blueberry syrup, which could serve as a guide: http://www.pickyourown.org/blueberrysyrup.htm.

  • Oh. My. Goodness. Drooooool! Coming to you via The Prudent Homemaker on FB and am now a fan!

  • Virginia

    Hi Shae! I write from Spain and as far as I know we don’t do that here, but we grow orange trees at home and your receipe sounds great. How do you use this syrup? Do you drink it or mix it, or…? Can you do it with lemons too? Thank you very much for sharing your recipes with us!

    • Shae

      Hola Virginia! Thanks for visiting all the way from Spain! This syrup is designed to be used to flavor homemade sodas or as a cocktail mixer. Usually, I simply put a few tablespoons in a tall glass with ice and fizzy water. If you drink cocktails, you can invent all kinds of good summer refreshments. There are lots of great ideas and cocktail recipes for syrups floating around on the web these days. Also, I believe you could make a good lemon syrup out of a firm acidic lemon like a Eureka or Lisbon, but soft and less-acidic Meyers aren’t so good — at least not in my experience. Experiment and enjoy!

      • Virginia

        Thank you so much for your useful reply! I’ll try with my lemons (I don’t know their type to be honest. Oranges have many different names but it seems like we forgot to name lemons, poor they…) and I’ll let you know. Have a great day!

  • What a beautiful blog. I’m not sure how I arrived here but I’m so glad I did. I’m definitely looking forward to trying this Syrup.

  • Shae

    Welcome, Melinda, and thank you. Your blog is beautiful, too!

  • mday

    I can not wait to hear the answer to suzannes question about canning your syrup. I would love to add it to teas in the winter! thanks for all the recipes..can’t wait to get some made!

  • Ooooh, I make soda syrups for work, and it really is so much fun. I recently did an orgeat syrup– so darn tasty! I can’t wait to give this orange syrup a try… great recipe!

    • Shae

      Wow! I would love to know how to do orgeat syrup. It’s one of my favorites of the commercially packaged kind, but I’ve never had house- or homemade. :-)

  • [...] says, “Hey, why don’t we put up some jam? Then we’ll kick back, put on some tunes, and sip a homemade soda.” Living in sunny Cali as she does, there is lots of scope for marmalade-making and random boxes [...]

  • Dear Shae,
    Thank you so much for the blog – very interesting and useful
    I am a complete novie to the jam making and your article on the copper pan was indeed a ray of light to the area.
    I have bought one recently and did my first jam ever (actually that was not a jam but rather preserved (in 800 gr per kilo of berries) strawberries.
    I have read up thoroughly before launching the process. And still I am not there.
    The preserve was on the heat for more than 2 hours but the tempreature was not getting up to the required 104Centigrade, nor the other methods of defining that the preserve is ready worked out.
    However the preserve turned out to be overcooked – I would say that currently it is a flavourless syrup with strawberrie inside – though none of the strawberries dissolved and the syrup is very clear, though rather dark I would say. I also think that the taste of the preserve is also on the acid side – though the copper pan I used is a brand new one. Maybe the duration of the preparation got it say?
    Would you be so kind and have a look at the result I got and opine on that – does the photo seem to you to be overcooked?
    http://adesigna.livejournal.com/171505.html (that’s in Russian – but the photos are selfexpanatory)
    Maybe you will have an idea about the acidity issue in the preserve?
    Thank you so much anyway.
    Anna

  • Shae

    Anna: I can’t speak to the specifics of your recipe, but the preserve does look overcooked — and two hours is a very long time to keep strawberries on the heat. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a strawberry jam for more than 25-30 minutes. I would suggest starting out with tested recipes for smaller batches. I rarely put more than three pounds of strawberries in my pan. Getting a set becomes trickier as the batch size grows, especially with lower pectin fruits like strawberries. Good luck to you!

  • Dear Shae,
    Thank you so much for the reply – I frankly felt being a genuine alchemist looking at all of the boiling and puffing of strawberries. Turned out to be much trickier than I expected.

  • can you use orange juice by chance ?

    • Shae

      Hi: I’m not sure that I understand your question. The recipe does use orange juice. You just don’t want to cook the orange juice when making the syrup, because the flavor won’t be as good.

  • store bought orange juice its hard for me to juice im a quadreplegic i have no use of my hands should i lesson the sugar amount

  • Shae

    Ah, now I understand. I’d have a couple of concerns: One is that much of the good flavor in these syrups comes from the freshly chopped orange zest; the other is that if you reduce the sugar too much, the syrup will not thicken. I’ve never tested the recipe other than as written here, so unfortunately I can’t really advise you further. I’m not one to discourage experimentation, however. If you do try it, please feel free to report back on how it goes!

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