|Köhler (1887) Marshmallow|
It turns out that marshmallow is…odd. For millennia, the roots of Althaea officinalis — a mallow plant found near salt marshes, hence the name — has been used in medicine and confectionery. Ancient Egyptians are said to have used the roots as both medicine and candy. The reason — and it’s the reason I say that marshmallow is odd — is that the sap in the root is gooey. Until gelatin became a popular stabilizer in the 20th century, confectioners used the plant’s natural gooeyness to stabilize and flavor a soft candy named after the plant: marshmallow. In French, it’s guimauve for both the plant and the candy. As in the US, the connection these days is in name only.
That mucilaginous thickness has long been regarded as excellent for helping to soothe sore throats. I’m less interested in marshmallow’s purported medicinal properties, though, than I am its culinary applications.
I’ve tried the syrup successfully in a few drinks such a simple daiquiri and in a Tom Collins. Pairings with gin seem especially promising — whiskey less so. My emerging rule of thumb is to use about 75% marshmallow syrup as I would sugar syrup in a drink. It is a notably thick syrup. The first time I poured it from a bottle, I used a knife to cut the end of the pour. That turned out to be overkill; just stop pouring before reaching your desired quantity and the amount in the jigger may well pull out the rest of the volume you need from the bottle.
Sirop de Guimauve (Ginette Mathiot)
2.25 oz marshmallow root
2.25 pounds sugar
Wash, peel and slice the marshmallow roots. Bring generous 2 cups water to a boil in a pan and add the marshmallow roots. Let infuse for 24 hours. Strain and add the sugar. Bring to a boil again, skim and immediately remove from the heat. Strain and let cool. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal. To serve, dilute with water to taste.
In Élixirs & boissons retrouvés, Gilbert Fabiani offers a similar recipe. My translation is below. The original French follows because my French is entirely self-taught and is, admittedly, a mess. Feel free to correct it.
Marshmallow Syrup (Rowley’s translation of Fabiani)
With 75 grams of the root, ½ liter of water and 1 kg of sugar. Wash the root well and cut it into little pieces. Cover with boiling water and let it infuse for 24 hours. Strain, add sugar and cook over low heat for 10 minutes to ¼ hour. Check the consistency of the syrup, which will adhere to the edge of the pot as it cools. Put in bottles and refrigerate or sterilize them for ½ hour for a long shelf life.
Sirop de Guimauve (Fabiani’s original)
Avec 75 grammes de la racine, ½ litre d’eau et 1 kg de sucre. Bien laver et tronçonner la racine en petis morceaux. Recouvrir avec l’eau bouillante et laisser infuser pendant 24 heures. Filtrer, ajouter le sucre et faire cuire à petit feu pendant 10 minutes à ¼ heure. Vérifier la consistence du sirop qui doit attacher sur la bord du récipient en se refroidissant. Mettre en bouteilles et conserver au frais ou stériliser pendant ½ heure pour une longue conservation.
|Cooking the syrup|
Real Marshmallow Syrup (Rowley)
80g/2.8 oz (about 2/3 cup) dry cut marshmallow root
500ml/2 cups filtered water
900g/4 cups sugar
Place the cut marshmallow root in a large jar or heatproof container. Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the marshmallow. Cover and let this infuse for 24 hours. Strain, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible, into a clean pot. Over medium-high heat, add the sugar to the marshmallow infusion and stir until it dissolves completely. Pour into sterilized bottles and refrigerate.
If you make a batch for yourself — or already use marshmallow syrup in mixed drinks or cooking — let me know, eh? I find this stuff is promising, but would love other ideas about how to use it.
- Thickens, flavors mixed drinks
- Use about 75% of the volume you might use of a 2:1 syrup
- Promising with gin, some rums, not so much whiskey
- Make a batch, play with it, and let us know what you've done
- UPDATE 1/30/11: our recipe for Marshmallow Collins is here.
Ginette Mathiot (1st US edition, 2009)
I Know How to Cook
976 pages, hardback
Gilbert Fabiani (2000)
Élixirs & boissons retrouvés
424 pages, trade paperback
€26.65 (on Amazon.fr)
Goes well with: