Savor the fresh flavors of summer in the Garden State with a recipe for Rosemary-Citrus Soda Syrup from Dishing Up® New Jersey.

For many people, New Jersey is known for the industrial landscapes around the Newark Airport, or for the sea of red brake lights along the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. It’s the state’s reputation for clogged highways that led to the joke residents know well: instead of inquiring which town we call home, people ask “What exit?” Most of us will respond with seriousness rather than sarcasm. It’s because we know that when you take an exit and get beyond the highway, you get to see the real New Jersey.

New Jersey — we all just call it “Jersey” — is diverse. Its regions, landscapes, cultures, and cuisines tie us all together, and there is no better way to celebrate the state than through its food. In my latest book, Dishing Up® New Jersey, I looked for culinary inspiration from chefs, family, neighbors, and friends to create a collection of recipes that truly captures the spirit of the Garden State.

Map of New Jersey © Anne Smith, excerpted from Dishing Up® New Jersey

And the garden state it is, from sprawling farm land in the west to fertile ground in the south. Tomatoes and corn are what we’re known and celebrated for. Cranberries are plentiful, as are blueberries. Cattle and pork farms dot the region, and many artisanal cheese makers and rustic country bakers call Jersey home.

Along the shore, seafood is caught and eaten fresh, and the boardwalk offers treats that bring out the kid in all of us. Who doesn’t occasionally long for a fresh funnel cake or pipin’ hot boardwalk fries?

In the cities, we see why Jersey is the true melting pot (Ellis Island is located here, after all). From the Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants in Newark’s Ironbound section to the Korean enclave in Bergen County, from the Cuban community in Hudson County to the countless Italian restaurants and pizza joints — if you want a cuisine from anywhere in the world, you’ll find it here.

We don’t need to go out to experience a good meal. For so many of us, the best dinners are the ones prepared at home. Our homes are gathering spots for family and friends, and through recipes — both those created in a flash and those passed down from generation to generation — food is an important ingredient in creating cherished memories. While writing this book, I was struck by how often people digressed from talking about a particular recipe to reminisce about the people it reminded them of, or a particular time it was served.

Meals bring us closer, and we’re close here in Jersey. Maybe we have to be, because of all the ribbing we take from outsiders. This book is my invitation to you to take an exit and join us for a bite. You’ll be welcomed in and you’ll find something to like. And hopefully you’ll come to understand why we love this state so very much.

Rosemary-Citrus Soda Syrup

Recipe from Small World Coffee, Princeton, New Jersey

Making your own soda syrup is relatively easy, and the flavor it delivers is rewarding. In the summer, when your garden rosemary is growing like crazy, this is one more good use for the fragrant and potent herb. Make a delicious sparkling drink by combining 2 ounces of the syrup with 16 ounces of soda water, plus plenty of ice.

Makes 16 ounces

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup wildflower honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Combine the sugar, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, rosemary, and lemon zest in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute. The mixture will bubble up when it’s boiling, which is why you should use a large saucepan.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the syrup sit for 10 minutes. Then strain the syrup through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer into a jar or bottle. Chill before using.

Recipe, map, and photo excerpted from Dishing Up® New Jersey © 2016 by John Holl. Photo © Amy Roth. Map © Anne Smith. All rights reserved.

John Holl

John Holl is a New Jersey native and covered the Garden State for the New York Times and the Star-Ledger. He began his career at New Jersey Network… See Bio

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