Blue of vanilla may baffle, but syrup's tasty


POSTED: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Here is a question that has bothered me for many years, although it is of zero importance: How did blue come to represent the flavor of vanilla?

Blue candy, blue shave ice, blue drinks?

Process of elimination comes to mind, with all the other colors having been taken by more obvious taste sensations: red for the berries, yellow for lemon and banana, green for lime, purple for grape, brown for cola and chocolate ...

And so someone in the world of artificial flavorings decided on blue for vanilla and it became a worldwide conspiracy.

Not that it matters or that anyone cares, but the question came to mind on Saturday when I made my first-ever batch of shave-ice syrup. I chose vanilla because that's the extract I had in my cupboard (in nature, vanilla is brown, by the way, but I did color my syrup blue for the sake of conformity).

Over the years I've had many requests for homemade shave-ice syrup, but it's never seemed a pressing matter (”;Let them buy Malolo!”; I thought). But while researching last week's recipe request for Hawaiian-style coconut candy, I found an easy syrup recipe in the same old cookbook—“;Oldies But Goodies Volume I,”; published by the Kamehameha Schools alumni in 1983. It's credited to Trudy Miyashiro Tom, class of 1980, who got it from her grandmother, Florence Ajimine Miyashiro.

So to both of them, thanks.

This recipe as adapted here makes about 5 cups of syrup. I'd suggest you divide it into smaller portions and make yourself four or five flavors. Imagine an Easter shave-ice party with syrup in several pretty pastels.

For flavorings, check out the spice aisle at your supermarket. Extracts are available in lemon, raspberry, almond, coconut, root beer and more. Not to mention vanilla.

Commercial syrups include preservatives—yours won't, so you can't keep it forever, and you can't refrigerate it or it will thicken and become cloudy. You'll want to use it up within a couple of weeks.




3 cups sugar
        1/4 cup cornstarch
        1 quart (4 cups) water
        About 2 teaspoons extract in flavor of your choice
        Food coloring, at least 10 drops



Old-Fashioned Shave-Ice Syrup

Combine sugar, cornstarch and water in a pot over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a full boil. Keep boiling, stirring occasionally, until mixture is nearly clear and slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Syrup will thicken a bit more as it cools.

When cool enough to taste, add extract, starting with a teaspoon and adding more to taste. Add food coloring to reach desired tint. (For vanilla, 2 teaspoons extract and 15 drops blue food coloring works well.)

For serving, pour into squeeze bottle and squirt over shave ice. Makes 5 cups. Do not refrigerate.

Note: Syrup may be divided into smaller portions, with each flavored and colored differently.

Nutritional information unavailable.