July 7, 2018

ServiceBerry Tree Drink Syrups

I suppose my neighbors think I am crazy. A Martha Stewart, Instagramming want to be. They could be 100% right. A few weeks ago, I was doing some window box weeding at my townhome in St Paul. You see, when we moved, I gave up the large yard and subsequent gardens. While I appreciate that in early July when it seems like all you do is water and weed.  I do miss those gardens when it comes to early August, picking flowers and vegetables and herbs right out our back door.

As I was wiping some berries off my stoop, my neighbor came by to say hello. He noticed me sweeping the berries. He said, “they are messy, but the birds sure like them.” He then said, “did you know you can eat them? A few years ago, someone came by and asked if they could pick the berries from our serviceberry trees. He made jam from them.”  It was there that my mind started working. Why should the birds be the only ones to get these berries? Our property has at least 6 of these trees, and I figured I could pick 4-6 cups of serviceberries and make jam or syrup from them.

The next day after the radio show I researched Serviceberry Trees. In April white flowers bloom that bees and butterflies flock to and in the late spring –May or June, serviceberry is sometimes called Juneberry. The trees get a red to dark purple berry.  The fruit makes for some magical eating, as thousands of delicious purple-red berries ripen. The berries last about two weeks before the birds get to them and they shrivel up on the trees.

Our trees were very ripe, and the berries came off in handfuls. I picked 4 cups and put them in the saucepan and gathered two more cups, thinking 6 cups would be ideal. I added a half cup of Sugar and cooked the berries to a thick paste mashing them with the back of my spoon as I cooked them. I decided to make syrup, so I blended them in my, and I added about a half cup of white vinegar to cut the sweetness and give the fruit some complexity. When they were all blended, I got my strainer out, and I pushed them through the strainer with a spatula. The berries have a little hard seed in the middle that is best strained out. From there I had a beautiful syrup.

What will I do with my serviceberry syrup? I will use it on pancakes, yogurt, as a drink syrup in soda water or Gin and Tonics or with sparkling wine. It would also be delicious on ice cream or folded into whipped cream as a light parfait. The taste is sweet like a blueberry but has a tartness more like a Cranberry. My husband thought it was like a sweetened Cranberry syrup.

I saw my neighbor later on that day and gave him a bottle of the syrup. He looked tickled that I had made it but skeptical on what to do with it. I suppose in your urban neighborhood your neighbor making syrup out of berries found from your Urban landscape is not something you come across every day.