This time I’m following Francois Xavier’s Orgeat procedure from this blog post:
Homemade Orgeat Syrup (French Barley Water)
(My favorite part of the lovely pictures which accompany the recipe is that the author appears to be making orgeat in his/her pajamas.)
550 grams blanched and roughly chopped almond & (optional) apricot kernels
150 grams blanched and finely minced almonds & (optional) apricot kernels
3 litres of water
about 9 pounds of sugar (I like Florida Crystals)
1 cup Brandy or Cognac (I used Osocalis California Brandy)
2 teaspoons Orange Flower Water
1/4 oz Natural Almond Extract per litre
This makes a bit more than 4 litres (or a gallon.)
Special equipment: scale, cheesecloth, candy thermometer
To blanch almonds (thanks Paul!): Purchase whole raw almond (and optionally apricot) kernels. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and rinse with cold water. Put on some good music, and rub the skins off each almond. It took me about the length of Nick Cave’s excellent new CD “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!” to remove the skins from 856 grams of almonds.
In regards Almond and Apricot Kernels, I had a bit over 2 pounds of Almonds and 2 ounces of Apricot kernels to start with. They were mixed together to blanch, so I’m not exactly sure how much of each ended up in the final mix.
Roughly chop 550 grams almonds with a big knife. Finely chop 150 grams of almonds with a big knife.
Add almonds and 600 grams of sugar to a pot. Add 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, cool, and leave to rest for 12 hours. Because I am paranoid, I put it in the fridge.
Strain through cheesecloth or, even better, a coarse nylon straining bag (available from beer supply stores).
Wash and sanitize the bottles you will be using to store your syrup. I don’t have a dish washer, so I wash them, rinse them, then place them in a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 200 degrees. When it reaches 200, I leave them in for 15 minutes. Kind of like an autoclave.
Weigh the strained liquid.
For every 500 grams of strained liquid, add 700 grams of sugar. My liquid weighed 2774 grams, so I added around 3500 grams of sugar.
Put the pot over low heat, and heat to dissolve sugar. Interestingly, Francois Xavier recommends not to boil it, as this may turn your orgeat into caramel. I brought it to the recommended 40 Centigrade and kept it there for about 15 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Leave the orgeat to cool. Then add the brandy, orange flower water, and almond extract.
Pour into the clean bottles.
Also, as Francis Xavier notes, “Real orgeat syrup will split after a few days in a thick, solid white layer of almond powder on top and syrup below. This is normal and happens with quality bought orgeat syrup such as the one I used to buy from Hédiard in Paris. All you need is insert a skewer in the bottle to break the top layer a bit, close and shake. This is really part of the fun in this product and a hallmark of quality orgeat syrup.”
Interestingly, perhaps because I am using florida crystals natural cane sugar, my orgeat came out even darker than Francois’.
Anyway, the best part about this recipe, is that you run almost no risk of over processing your almonds. With a food processor or a blender, it is very, very easy to start making almond butter, as I did last time. Almond fudge is cool, but it doesn’t really work for cocktails. Besides, unless you’re handicapped or suffering from carpal tunnel, there’s really no compelling reason to use a food processor for this small an amount of almonds.