This apple-lemon cheong (syrup) is SUPER tasty! You can use it as a sweetener in desserts, savory dishes, salad dressings, and drinks- including cocktails!
Last year when I traveled to Paju, South Korea, I ordered an apple-lemonade from a really nice restaurant/cafe called Mochuisle. It came with thinly sliced apples in the drink, and it was SO delicious! I instantly knew I had to figure out how to make it myself and recreate the drink.
What is cheong?
Cheong is any type of syrup that is made by combining fruit or vegetables with equal weight in sugar, and letting it sit for up to 3 months depending on a few factors. The purpose is to extract as much flavor from the fruit or vegetable into the syrup.
This is exactly how plum syrup (maesil) is made, which is an ingredient I use in a lot of my cooking. Plum syrup takes about 3 months (or 100 days to be more traditional), but this apple-lemon syrup only takes about a month.
Apples– use whatever apples you like. The sweeter the better! I’ve made this with fuji, honey crisp, and gala apples. All turned out great but I think honey crisp gave the best flavor. I’m also curious to try this with green apples!
Lemons– pick good lemons for this. Try to avoid rock hard ones and opt for squishy, juicy lemons instead.
Baking soda– you’ll need to clean the apples and lemons in water and baking soda thoroughly.
Sugar– I’ve just been using regular granulated white sugar, but it is more traditional and probably a little healthier to use turbinado sugar, which is unrefined and light brown in color.
Tips for making the best apple-lemon cheong
Use an air-tight jar that can be easily flipped upside-down without leaking. This method for mixing up the apples and lemons is much better than using a spoon, because it eliminates any chance of contamination.
Use a fermentation weight to keep the apples and lemons submerged in the syrup. I am pretty diligent in checking on it every couple days to make sure no bacteria is growing, but if you prefer to set it and forget it, I recommend getting the weight. This will prevent any of the fruit from being exposed to oxygen, which is how bacteria can develop.
Store the apple lemon cheong in the refrigerator after the sugar has liquefied to prevent it from fermenting. Sometimes mine ends up fermenting at room temp and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not really sure why, since there is enough sugar that fermentation should not happen. If you notice bubbles and some movement after a few days, thats a sign of fermentation. If you want it fermented, you can leave it out at room temp but I prefer my fruit syrups not fermented so sometimes I have to move it into the fridge.
Don’t throw out the apples and lemons after the syrup is done! I like to keep the lemons in the syrup, and you can make apple-flavored soju with the apples. Just add the wilted apples into another jar and fill it with unflavored soju for 3 months at room temp. Strain, then store the apple flavored soju in the fridge.
How to use apple-lemon cheong
Treat this the same as you would any kind of sweetener- cheong can be used for cooking, baking, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages! Here are a few ways I like to use this apple-lemon syrup:
Cocktails- this is a great ingredient to add to cocktails not only for sweetening, but adding a delicious apple-lemon flavor. Make up your own concoction or substitute simple syrup in any cocktail recipe for this apple-lemon cheong.
Non-alcoholic beverages- adding this to some club soda is a great way to add flavor to some bubbly, or just plain water. My favorite way to use it is with 1/2 chilsung cider (or 7-up), 1/2 club soda, and apple-lemon syrup to taste.
Tea- yes, you can use this as a sweetener for your hot tea! This is what my mom has been doing. I gave her a 16 oz jar of this syrup and she finished it within 1 week because she loved it so much! You can also just mix it with hot water.
Cooking/Baking- you can absolutely use this syrup in place of sweeteners in your desserts and savory dishes. If it makes sense to lend an apple/lemon flavor to the dish, use it!
Salad dressing- don’t sleep on this one! Apple-lemon cheong is an amazing addition to salad dressings, especially vinegar/oil based ones.
Apple-Lemon Cheong (Syrup)
- 700 g Apple about 4 cups of sliced apples
- 300 g Lemon about 1.5 cups sliced lemons
- 1000 g Sugar about 5 1/2 cups
- 1 tbsp Baking soda
- Clean the fruit! The best way to clean fruit is in water and baking soda. Sprinkle 1 tbsp baking soda over the fruit, then add water and let it soak for about 15 minutes.
- Rinse under running water then pat dry with paper towels.
- Start by cutting the lemons first, because the apples will start to oxidize quickly. Slice the lemons into thin rounds, then remove the seeds using a toothpick.
- Next cut the apples- it really does not matter much what shape you cut them into. Just be sure to slice them 1/4 inch thin or less, and remove the core. Try to work quickly (and safely) because the apples will start to oxidize if left out too long.
- In a large bowl, combine the apples and lemons, then toss in about 1/4 of the sugar.
- In a sterilized glass jar, add a little bit of the apples and lemons in at a time, alternating with layers of sugar in-between. Make sure you have enough sugar to adequately cover the top layer. Cover and keep in a cool, dark spot.
- After day 1, the sugar will start to dissolve. Leave it alone at this point.
- On day 2-3, most of the sugar will have dissolved except for the bottom and the top. Using a sterilized spoon, mix everything together until the sugar has dissolved.*Note: using an air-tight jar that won't leak when turned upside down is the best way to go about this process. Mixing with a spoon is fine, but leaves room for contamination if you are not careful.
- The apples will float to the top and oxidize- you need to cover with plastic wrap or use fermentation jar weights to keep them submerged in the syrup. I just use plastic wrap and make sure to check on it every couple days for mold.
- Keep at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for about 1 month, stirring and pressing them down every few days. *Note: There is enough sugar that fermentation should not happen, but sometimes it still does. If you notice your cheong starting to ferment, move it into the refrigerator to stop (slow) the fermentation. You'll know its fermenting if bubbles start to float to the surface and there is a little movement.
- After 1 month, pick out the apples but keep the lemons in the syrup. Transfer to a smaller jar if needed, and keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. *you can make flavored soju with the apples! Instead of throwing them away, add them to another jar and fill it with unflavored soju. Let it sit at room temperature for 3 months, then discard the apples and store the flavored soju in the fridge.