Fruity flavors zest up Monique Carr’s concoctions. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
THE MORNING SUN WARMS THE bosque near Albuquerque, catching the ruby-red skins of wild currants, ripe and juicy for the picking. Monique Carr smiles as she reaches for the fruit. “Foraging is peaceful and playful,” she says. “It’s romantic. It’s sensory. You hear birds singing, you hear crunching. It’s not rushed.”
The owner of Spellbound Syrups, which she started in 2015, Carr brings that magic to her small-batch shrubs with mostly foraged, seasonal ingredients. She spends hours in the mountains near Mora, along the river in Abiquiú, and wandering orchards in Tesuque to find elderflowers, cherries, apricots, pomegranates, prickly pears, apples, and wild currants.
She returns home to blend her concentrated syrups, made with vinegar and sugar, a technique that goes back as far as ancient Greece and Persia. Carr extracts the juice and pulp, then macerates them with sugar. She adds vinegar and refrigerates the mixtures to prevent ambient yeasts, which can cause carbonation.
As a Black Mestiza woman, Carr practices a deep reverence for the land, knowing her resources are precious. “You can’t over-take,” she says. “There is so much responsibility that comes with it. You don’t want to take more than you can use.”
Experience in coffee shops and breweries in college introduced Carr to the culinary world. A book about shrubs that she received as a gift deepened her interest. It’s a time she often references when talking about the genesis of Spellbound, but she’s coming to realize that her connection to the timeless practice of shrub making is deeper than that.
“The seasonal nature of what I do means I work with something, and then it’s released and I come back to it later,” she says. “There is forgetting involved, and then the joy of remembering. Remembering the smells and tastes, remembering to poach a peach to remove the skin. There’s joy in getting to re-meet those experiences.”
Her syrups can be added to sparkling water or used to make a cocktail with your favorite spirit. Carr suggests trying shrubs as dressings, over yogurt, or to make popsicles. “Be playful,” she says.
Spellbound Syrups can be found at Sky Coffee, in Santa Fe. Monique Carr also collaborates with Japanese dessert shop Tonari No Mise, in Albuquerque, to create special treats.
Order directly on Instagram @spellbound_syrups.
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