We’re big fans of blueberries here in New England.
While I was growing up, it was an annual family ritual to visit our favorite spots each year in late July through August and pick as many wild blueberries as we could in an afternoon. Many of these were eaten fresh or in a cup with a little milk and sugar. The majority of the bounty was frozen to enjoy all year. It was always a treat when my Auntie delivered freshly baked blueberry goodies.
Our local picking grounds were along railroad tracks that cut into a granite hillside. Summer cottage vacations always seemed to have a patch of wild blueberries growing nearby too and I have warm memories of eating fresh blueberry muffins every morning during our vacations at the lake.
Our acidic soil is the perfect environment for both wild and cultivated blueberries. Wild, lowbush blueberries grow in a dense carpet from underground runners or rhizomes. They tend to be found in dry, open ground, sunny meadows, down dirt roads, and along hiking trails.
Blueberries are considered a “Superfood” and are packed with nutrition, antioxidants, and are a great source of fiber. Just one cup of raw blueberries provides 114 milligrams of potassium, 24% of the suggested daily intake of Vitamin C, and 14% of the recommended daily fiber. Antioxidants in blueberries include anthocyanins, which might help fight cancer and flavonoids that may improve learning and cognition.
We didn’t know much about the health benefits of blueberries when I was a young. We just knew they tasted good and were a free source of fruit for our family to enjoy. It was also fun to forage for the ripe fruit and discover bushes heavy with berries as we scrabbled along the trails and brush.
When we purchased our homestead, there were eight mature highbush blueberry plants lining the driveway. Like their wild counterparts, these plants require very little care and continue to produce pounds of berries each year.
This year, the harvest began the last week of July and we picked every day for almost a month, ate our fill, and managed to stash some in the freezer to enjoy later. One of the things I experimented on this year is blueberry syrup. After a few batches and a few modifications, I am very happy with this recipe.
Homemade Blueberry Syrup with Honey
This simple blueberry syrup with honey recipe can be made with fresh or frozen blueberries. You can also use other varieties of berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, or a mix of berries.
- 4 cups blueberries
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 lemon
- Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, peel five 1-inch strips of zest from the lemon then juice the lemon reserving 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
- Extract the blueberry juice by combining blueberries and water in a saucepan over low heat. Gently mash the blueberries with a potato masher and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the juice into a heatproof bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids.
- Return the blueberry juice to the saucepan and add the lemon zest and honey. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of your spoon or registers 225° on a candy thermometer. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Continue stirring and boil over high heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat, discard lemon zest, and allow the blueberry syrup to cool. Pour into just-cleaned bottles. Seal and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
My original goal was to make blueberry syrup with honey to add to Chamomile tea for a flavor packed nutritional drink (See: Growing Chamomile for Tea).
We soon discovered that we also enjoy blueberry syrup with honey drizzled over warm pancakes, stirred in yogurt, and as an ice cream topping. I am sure we will discover other uses.
Sources and Further Reading:
- “Basic Report: 09050, Blueberries, raw.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Web. August 2014.
- Prior, Ronald L. “Antioxidant Capacity and Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables.” USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. February 1998. Web. August 2014.
- Rodriguez-Mateos, Ana, Rendeiro, Catarina, et al. “Intake and Time Dependence of Blueberry Flavonoid.” American Society for Nutrition. August 2013. Web. August 2014.
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