At the risk of sounding like a clich√©, where did the summer go??? It certainly flew by for us Abramsons…my kids go back to school tomorrow.

As brief as the summer seemed to be, at least it lasted longer than strawberry season around here. The sweet red beauties came and were gone from local farm stands in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

Since I was eager to savor my favorite fruit for as long as possible, I bought up a bunch to preserve…

…and made this all-natural strawberry syrup we’ve been enjoying all summer mixed into carbonated water.

One of my favorite things about blogging is that publishers occasionally give me cookbooks to review. Ten Speed Press has been incredibly generous- they’ve sent me some really great titles- and the recipe for this syrup/soda comes from one of them: Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: And Other Kitchen Projects by Karen Solomon.

I was initially put off by the amount of sugar in this recipe; I was also skeptical about the addition of the black peppercorns. I am so glad I decided to give it a go anyway: it makes an incredibly delicious syrup with a gorgeous red hue! I used just barely crushed peppercorns and strained them out after a week- I couldn’t really taste them in the syrup, but felt they intensified its flavor in an unexpected way.

Karen recommends adding 1 part syrup to 2 parts sparkling water and serving it over ice (with an optional shot of gin). When I pour myself a glass, I use less syrup than that. This is because I do try to limit my daily intake of sugar, and because I want the batch of syrup to last as long as possible. The great thing here, though, is that you can add as much as of the syrup as you like.

A bonus of this recipe is you get to savor the macerated strawberries, too. I cooked mine down further into a jam for canning, but you could just throw them into the food processor or put them through a food mill instead. Karen suggests doing this with a bit more orange juice before storing the jam-esque strawberries in the refrigerator for a few days…they’ll be great with plain yogurt, pancakes, etc.

I own a Sodastream so making sparkling water on demand is super easy. If you don’t have one, Karen includes instructions in the book for carbonating the soda with yeast.

If you’re interested in fun kitchen DIY projects like I am, I strongly recommend Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It. There are a few more soda syrups in the book, as well as many other unique and delicious-looking recipes.

Strawberry Black Pepper Syrup Recipe

Yield: 3 1/2- 4 cups of syrup

Total Time: less than 1 week

Ingredients:

* about 2 pounds ripe organic strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved (7 cups)
* 3 1/2 cups sugar
* 3 tablespoons orange juice (about 1/2 orange)
* 2 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns

Directions:

1. In a giant mixing bowl, combine the berries with 2 cups of the sugar, being sure to coat each berry in sugar completely. Cover the top of the berries in a blanket of the remaining 11/2 cups sugar. Let the berries macerate for 12 hours, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. (Setting this up after dinner and stirring periodically before bedtime is sufficient.) The berries will shrink in size and release their juice and the sugar will dissolve in the liquid. If necessary, cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel tied with string to protect the sweet syrup from insects.

2. After maceration, stir again to dissolve as much sugar as possible from the bottom of the bowl. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and drain the syrup into it, stirring the fruit (but not pressing on it) to release as much liquid as possible. Reserve the fruit for another use (like jam or pie filling) and taste your syrup. Heaven.

3. Stir in the orange juice and the peppercorns and transfer the mixture to a clean, odorless glass jar with a secure lid. Refrigerate for 5 to 6 days to allow the peppercorn flavor to develop.

How to Store It: Store, refrigerated, for up to 1 month. For long-term storage, pour into canning jars and process for 10 minutes (the flavor will become "cooked" but it will still make good soda) . Canned, it will keep for 1 year.

Reprinted with permission from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: And Other Kitchen Projects by Karen Solomon, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.