I’m more and more interested in getting as close to zero waste in my life as I can. It feels overwhelming, so I take it one step at a time. Since I spend a lot of time cooking, there are a lot of bits and pieces that don’t make it into my meals. When I can’t compost, or it doesn’t make sense to, I’m regarding the waste as a culinary adventure. I’ve roasted squash seeds for snacking, turned carrot tops into chimichurri, and simmered Parmesan rinds in soups. It’s rewarding to keep the waste out of the trash and experiment with ingredients I hadn't considered before.
After flipping through the pages of Cooking with Scraps by Lindsay-Jean Hard I was inspired to use uneaten apple cores as a way to further reduce food waste in my kitchen. Lindsay-Jean Hard simmers apple cores with sugar and water for a syrup to use on pancakes. Apple syrup! Sounded great, but I’m not much of a pancake eater. I do love using simple syrup as a sweetener for cocktails, though. And just like that, I found a way to use food scraps to make interesting drinks.
Because apples are available year-round, you can make this syrup whenever you save up enough cores. (If you’re a big baker, this might take less time than you think!) We often connect apples with fall, but their juicy sweetness can be savored any time of the year. For instance, the apple core syrup would pair nicely with summer blackberries or cherries muddled in a refreshing smash-style cocktail.
What Is Apple Core Syrup?
I wanted to add some more flavor notes to my syrup besides apple. Cardamom, which is super floral, and crystalized ginger, which is spicy-sweet, came to mind. Both of these ingredients play well with apples. I happened to have a bag of crystalized ginger laying around from another project, so in true zero-waste mode, I put it to use for the syrup. Fresh ginger, which is widely available and less expensive, would also work. I would double the amount to make up for the concentration of the crystalized kind.
Thus, my apple core simple syrup recipe contains water and sugar flavored with apple cores, crushed cardamom pods, and crystalized ginger. It’s quite sweet with an apple essence. And while the cardamom and ginger are in the background, they still infuse the base with a pleasing flavor and fragrance.
The Scoop on Cooking With Apple Cores
It’s true that apple seeds harbor the chemical amygdalin, which when metabolized by our bodies turns into cyanide. But have no fear. In order for the apple seed to be truly harmful to your body, you would have to chew between 150 and a couple thousand seeds (the seeds have a protective coating; unchewed seeds will pass without issue)). Besides, heat destroys any cyanide compounds in the seeds, and this recipe is cooked, making death-by-apple-seeds impossible.
Stockpile Apple Cores in the Freezer
Unless you are a large family that eats apples with abandon, you’re going to want to keep your apple cores in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer until you’re ready to make the syrup. Use the cores from your baking projects, or ones you cut up for the little ones. Eaten apple cores should go into the compost.
I keep a list on the fridge of what I’ve stashed in my freezer, so I don’t forget the bits and bobs I squirrel away in my preservation efforts. You can also store any apple peels leftover from pies or other desserts where the peel is discarded.
Make Your Syrup Thicker
My spice apple core syrup is a standard simple syrup with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. For a thicker syrup, one that might be nicer with pancakes or waffles, increase the sugar by 1/2 cup and it will turn out more like a maple syrup consistency.
Play With Different Flavors
There is flexibility with the flavorings you choose for your apple core simple syrup. Here are some suggestions, both common and a little experimental:
- Cinnamon sticks
- Whole allspice
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Add a little bourbon in with the water (the alcohol will boil off leaving behind the oaky caramel flavor)
- Swap brown sugar for the granulated sugar, or try honey or demerara sugar. Lindsay-Jean Hard uses brown sugar in her syrup, which will increase the depth of flavor and change the color darker as well—you can also try that here.
Ready to Use Your Apple Core Simple Syrup?
Think about how the flavors of apple, ginger, and cardamom go with certain spirits, like bourbon or rum, and use this syrup as the sweetener and build cocktails and mocktails from there. Add in something acidic, like lemon or orange juice, and something fun like a ginger liqueur or a flavored bitter and have fun experimenting.
- Swap the simple syrup for the honey syrup in this Gold Rush Cocktail
- Boost the flavor in a Chamomile-Honey Hot Toddy
- If you’ve upped the sugar for a thicker syrup, these Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes would be a lovely option—and they’re gluten free to boot!
Storing Your Spiced Apple Syrup
Keep the syrup in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Spiced Apple Core Simple Syrup
6 assorted apple cores (8 ounces)
10 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped crystallized ginger
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
Boil the apple cores, spices, ginger, and water:
Put the apple cores, cardamom pods, crystallized ginger, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, about 10 minutes, and then continue to boil, uncovered, until the liquid reduces by about half, about 20 more minutes.
Strain the infusion:
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the softened apple cores with a wooden spoon to release any additional liquid. Rinse out the saucepan.
Make the simple syrup:
Pour the apple liquid back into the saucepan (you should have about 1 cup). Add the sugar and return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, and the liquid gets slightly thicker but still quite pourable, about 5 minutes.
Cool and store syrup:
Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Keep the syrup in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|