Gifts from the garden

Using safe canning techniques will provide a shelf stable product and avoid deadly botulism.

What could be better on a cold winter’s morning, than hot pancakes served with blueberry syrup made as a gift from the garden? During the summer when the fruits were being harvested fast and furiously, freezing was the easiest technique to preserve the fruits. Now is the opportunity to take some of the frozen fruits and turn them into fruit syrups. Making the syrup will warm up the kitchen on a cold winter’s day and provide some wonderful aromas.

Fruit syrup is a clear, sweetened juice. The strongest fruit syrup is known as a fruit cordial. Fruit syrups are very versatile. The most common use of fruit syrup is to flavor drinks. But fruit syrup can be used as a sauce for desserts, cakes and puddings. How about using fruit syrup to flavor a fruit salad? Fruit syrups are a vital ingredient for making ice cream sundaes, ice cream sodas, ice cream and mousses. Where would pancakes be without blueberry or strawberry syrup?

To make a fruit syrup, fruit needs to be at the peak of flavor. Table-ripe fruit is ideal. Under-ripe fruits may give a bitter flavor or not be as sweet. Under-ripe fruit also tends to be less juicy. Over-ripe fruit may lend a musty flavor to the syrup.

For the best flavor syrup, choose blackberries, black currants, blueberries, cherries, grapes, raspberries (black or red) or loganberries. Other flavors include: strawberries, elderberries, apples and rose hips. For a citrus flavor choose lemons, limes or kumquats.

Some syrup may be infused with herbs and spices to give a specialty flavor. A couple of combinations might be apple cinnamon syrup or lemon and thyme.

Be aware that some of the fruits may fade over time. Also apple juice tends to darken when processed. This is where a vegetable based food coloring may be desirable to create a pleasing color to the product.

If frozen berries are used, they should have been frozen without sugar. Other ingredients include sugar and water.

Using 6 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen fruit will yield 4 1/2 to 5 cups of juice for the syrup. When extracting juice from the fruit, it is necessary to use a flat bottom pan. The fruit should be washed, stemmed, cut into pieces and crushed to release the juice. The fruit is brought to a boil, then simmered for five to ten minutes. The hot pulp and juice is then strained through a jelly bag or a double layer of cheesecloth over a colander. Discard the dry pulp.

Take 4 1/2 to 5 cups of juice and combine it with 6 3/4 cups of sugar in a very large sauce pan. Bring this combination to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour the syrup into hot, clean, half-pint or pint jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp clean paper towel. Adjust the two piece lids and process in the boiling water bath techniques for ten minutes for altitudes of 0-1000 feet above sea level. Processing time for 1001 to 6,000 feet above sea level is fifteen minutes and processing time for above 6,000 feet above sea level is twenty minutes.

Since fruits have acidity level below a pH of 4.6, fruit syrups can be safely preserved using the boiling water bath technique. This technique will make the fruit syrup shelf stable.

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