Regular readers might recall my virgin attempts at pickling earlier in the spring. Having just consumed the last of the pickled ramps some three months after the experiment – with a really nice piece of aged goat cheese – I can honestly say that it turned out to be a great way to extend the life of those ethereal spring onions.
The newly empty canning jar, however, turned my thoughts to wondering what’s in season right now. Blueberries, which a week ago were as expensive as semi-precious stones, are suddenly everywhere and cheap as chips. They’re bursting with sweet berry flavor, too – which means this long hot summer has kicked the growing season up a few weeks. I’m thinking crumble, pie, cobbler; but more urgently I’m thinking I don’t want to turn on the oven. Eventually I figured out that using the cook top I could make a syrup, which would not only be more in line with my attempts at seasonal preserves but also a significantly less intense dose of heat infusing my already overheated apartment. And yet again, like with the pickling, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the whole affair turned out to be: 5 cups of berries mashed up with 1 cup of water and simmered for 20 minutes. Drain through a sieve and reserve the liquid, discarding the solids. Rinse the pot, adding two cups of water, two cups of sugar, the zest of a lemon and bring to a medium boil. Add reserved berry liquid, a few tablespoons of lemon juice and cook for one minute. Remove from heat, let cool, then discard zest and pour into bottles. Voila!
In addition to these two bottles, which should last for six months in the fridge, I got the accidental benefit of some fresh jelly, too. “Leave to cool,” you should know means just that: let it cool down and then pour into storage containers. I on the other hand left it to cool for most of the day. As a result when I finally checked up on my syrup a gelatinous skin of jelly about an inch thick had formed across the top. It tasted intense and looked eminently spreadable, so I put it in a jar for later. The syrup, I am happy to report, is rich, thick, and bursting with a concentrated ripe-fruit flavor. Now I’m craving pancakes, as well as musing on all the items that will get the blueberry treatment in the coming months.