Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 tries to eat on $6/day.
Pancakes are a really cheap breakfast (or fun, easy dinner if you're us)--a couple cups of flour, a couple cups of milk, a bit of leavening. Less than $.50 could easily feed a family. Except of course for the toppings. Those pesky topping are always hitting us below the belt--first in the wallet, then the hips. We'll keep our discussion today centered on the wallet.
I've always enjoyed homemade syrup when it's been served to me, but have had terrible luck making my own, even though it is supposed to be super easy. Mine has been bland, or it's crystalized, or I've tried to store it and it's turned into rock candy, or all three. So I've kept buying it, which more than doubles the cost of pancake-making in this house. And then one day we ran out. I'd already made the pancakes so there was nothing else to do. I tinkered with a recipe I had and took a tip from my mother-in-law not to cook it to the "syrup" point. Perfection. And at room temperature it kept really well.
Why is this so awesome? Because homemade syrup costs easily half as much as store bought and usually is even cheaper than that. Additionally, it tastes so good and lacks that hello-I'm-maple-flavored-corn-syrup flavor that many store bought syrups have. Finally, it's easy. Shockingly easy. If you put it on the stove while you're doing the pancakes it'll be done by the time they are.
Here you have it with some tips for perfection.
Homemade Maple Syrup
Makes about 2 cups
Cook time: 10 minutes
(sugars: .33, other: .02)
1 1/2 C white sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1 C water
1 1/2 T corn syrup
1-2 tsp maple flavoring (if you have none, you can use 1/2 tsp vanilla plus 1/2 tsp almond extract)
Combine all ingredients except maple flavoring in a sauce pan. Heat on medium heat until it's got a somewhat vigorous boil going (it shouldn't be boiling like crazy, but it shouldn't be barely simmering either). Boil it for about 2-4 minutes (I tend to go on the long side). Take off heat, let it sit for a minute and add maple (or other) flavoring. I love love love it hot, but if you don't, I forgive you. Also, if it seems thin, worry not; it will thicken as it cools.
Store any leftovers covered at room temperature. (You may have a small amount of crystalization, but it should be minimal.)
Note: If you go to the syrup point, which takes about 8 minutes (the 'syrup point' is a certain temperature when something is supposed to thicken to what it considered a 'syrup'), you will have much much more trouble getting it not to crystalize. You'll also risk getting it too hot and winding up with a soft sort of candy stuff for your syrup instead. You will also--or at least I do--have trouble storing it without a lot more crystalization.