D.O. Agave Spirits: Proudly Mexican
How is Agave Syrup Made: Everything You Need to Know About Its Production, Nutritional Info and Culinary Uses
What Is Agave Syrup?
Surely you wonder how agave syrup, also known as agave nectar, is made. Agave syrup is composed of the liquid inside the tequilana weber or agave azul plant—the same that we use to produce Altos tequila!
History of Agave Syrup: Natural Sweeteners
Agave syrup was developed long ago by indigenous communities throughout Mexico when they discovered the high content of sugars in agave plants.
According to @sugarsoftheworld, there is a legend that says that a thunderstorm destroyed one agave piña (core) and the heat from the lightning hitting the plant converted the juice of the agave plant into agave syrup. People commonly say that agave syrup was discovered this way.
How is Agave Nectar Made? Agave Syrup in 5 Steps:
1.- Agave tequilana piñas are cut free from their root base.
2.- The leaves are removed from the agave piñas.
3.- The solids and the liquids of the piñas are removed and the juice is extracted.
4.- The filtered juice is heated and becomes a simple sugar called fructose. Technically, the agave nectar is heated to less than 118o F, causing thermal hydrolysis which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. The main carbohydrates are a complex form of fructose.
5.- The filtered juice is concentrated into a syrup-like liquid a little thinner than bee honey. Its color varies from light to dark amber.
- A tablespoon of agave syrup contains approximately 64 calories according with U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Keep in mind that fructose –the simple sugar in agave nectar, is found mainly in fruits and vegetables and is much sweeter than sucrose or table sugar. Thus, a smaller amount yields the same sweetness but fewer calories than sucrose. This gives agave nectar advantages for both the food industry and the health of the consumer.
- If you have the chance, always go with the organic sweetener: agave syrup! You can find it in most health food stores. Remember to read the label to make sure no chemical fertilizers were used.
Have you heard about the glycemic index (GI)? It measures how much a carbohydrate-rich food may raise our glucose levels. Agave syrup has just a 19 GI, while white table sugar has a 60 GI! This make agave syrup a good alternative to sugar for people with diabetes.
How to Cook with Agave Syrup
What we love about agave nectar is its strong sweetening power, but at the same time a relatively neutral or mild taste. So, when it is used with other flavors, they are not adulterated but rather intensified. When replacing table sugar with agave nectar, the go to ratio is 3/4 agave syrup equals 1 sugar. Sometimes you can go even lower, up to 1/2 agave to 1 sugar.
Agave syrup may cause baked recipes to brown faster than when using sugar. Reduce oven temperature by 25º F and increase baking time, accordingly.
Tips of How to Use Agave Syrup in Cocktails
- Agave syrup is sweeter than honey, but less thick. Still, in most cases, dilute it in a 1:1 ratio with water to create a so called “runny honey.”
- Keep in mind that the consistency of agave syrup is a little milder than bee honey. So, if you have cocktails in your repertoire that contain bee honey, remember that the former is more subtle.
- Agave nectar is an interesting resource behind the bar particularly to prepare tequila cocktails. However, it is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so be careful when you integrate it into your cocktails. Just modify the rest of other ingredients, aiming to balance flavors.
- Replace simple syrup with agave nectar and highlight its caramel notes by mixing it with aged spirits such as Altos reposado, Altos añejo, whiskies, bourbons or rum. Experiment with similar flavors.