An abundance of raspberries and blueberries gave me an excuse to make some fresh fruit syrups this summer. With just three ingredients, these syrups are simple to make and easy to freeze or can — if you can stop yourself from using them immediately! I mix them with seltzer for homemade soda, stir into yogurt or pour over ice cream. They would be a sweet addition to mixed drinks or a pancake breakfast, too. Add fresh herbs and combine fruits to make your own unique flavors. Here’s how to make the basic syrup:
- 1 quart or more fresh or frozen raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or elderberries
- 1/2 to 1 cup water
Place the berries (thawed, if frozen) in a heavy saucepan with the water. Add more water for high-pectin fruits, such as blueberries; use less with low-pectin fruits, such as raspberries. You can also adjust the amount of water to create the consistency you want: thin for sodas and cocktails; thick for yogurt and desserts.
Crush the fruit with a potato masher. Heat to boiling, then simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the berries are soft and release their juice.
Place a fine-mesh sieve, jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and carefully pour in the berry puree. Tip: If you use cheesecloth, start by folding it to make three layers, then moisten with water and squeeze out excess, which makes it easier to arrange in the colander.
For the clearest syrup, let the berries drain overnight in the refrigerator without pressing on them. To get as much juice as possible, you can press the fruit pulp with a spatula or squeeze the cloth gently. The juice will be more cloudy, but it doesn’t affect the flavor. Blueberries contain lots of pectin, which makes the juice thicker and more difficult to strain. To get the most juice, spread the berries in a thin layer when draining. Set aside the delicious fruit pulp (except for elderberry, which has toxic seeds) to use in yogurt, smoothies or baked goods. Freeze it in small portions for winter treats.
Measure the quantity of juice and pour it into a large saucepan. For each cup of juice, add 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil. Tip: The juice will bubble up to two to three times its original volume during heating. Watch carefully! Boil for about a minute, stirring constantly to avoid boiling over. Remove from heat, skim off any foam and pour the hot liquid into sterilized jars. It will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator. For longer storage, you can freeze it or process it in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. For more on preserving foods, use the technique from the USDA.
You can customize the syrups further by adding fresh herbs. While heating the berries, I added four stems of fresh mint leaves to my raspberry syrup and the zest of a lemon to the blueberry syrup.
Ann Whitman gardens in northern Vermont and is a former employee-owner of Gardener’ Supply Co.