1 block (1 pound) block piloncillo sugar
2 sticks cinnamon (3-inch)
2 whole star anise
6-8 whole cloves
2 cups just-boiled water
Combine the block of sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves (to taste) in a small saucepan. Pour the just-boiled water over them, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to create the consistency of a good-quality maple syrup. It should coat the back of a spoon, but be careful not to reduce the syrup too much or it will not pour easily once it has cooled.
Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Serve warm, or cool completely before storing.
Serves 6 to 12 (makes about 1½ cups).
Cook's notes: The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 year. Piloncillo is sold in firm blocks. It is available at Latin markets and in the international aisle of large grocery stores.
Nutrition values per serving (based on 12): 140 calories, 0 fat, 38 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 38 g sugar, 0 protein, 0 cholesterol, 45 mg sodium.
"The Founding Farmers Cookbook" co-written by Nevin Martell (Andrews McMeel, 2013)