Blueberries have been a part of North America’s story for a very long time. Before the cultivation of the Highbush Blueberry began, the First Peoples of North America had foraged for the native Lowbush Blueberry from the Atlantic to the Midwest for thousands of years. They called them “star fruits” thanks to the five-pointed shape that is formed at the blossom end of the berry. Lowbush Blueberries, most commonly known as wild blueberries, are sweet and small. Typically used to make traditional jams and syrups, they can be incorporated into baking mixes like muffins for perfect results. Highbush Blueberries are cultivated for sale at grocery stores and farmers markets across the nation. Oregon (our home state) produced 131 million pounds of juicy blueberries in 2018, making us the largest producer in the US, with Washington coming in a close second. Blueberry fields forever in the Northwest!
After having been touted a superfood, boasting high levels of antioxidants, the demand for blueberries is higher than ever. The blueberry is one of the only true blue foods. This is due to the compound anthocyanin, an antioxidant providing the stellar health benefits everyone is after. Whether you buy or u-pick your blueberries, make sure NOT to wash them until time of consumption, so as not to lose the protective white waxy “bloom” on the skin. Blueberries will last up to ten days in the refrigerator if not washed, but usually don’t stick around for that long. They’re too tempting! Picking up a flat from the Hood River Farmers Market, we wanted to use them for something slightly different then your usual faire. Traditional fruit syrups are made by combining a classic simple syrup and fresh fruit of choice. Do you like flapjacks while camping or on a simple Sunday morning? Our Traditional Blueberry Farm Syrup pairs perfectly with the cornmeal variety, blueberries and yellow corn make for a striking color contrast on any plate. This syrup is super easy to make and isn’t just for breakfast. We love a heavy drizzle on big bowls full of goats milk ice cream…yummmm!
Rinse berries thoroughly in cold water making sure that all dried blossoms are removed. It’s a bit tedious, but worth it!
Arrange a double layer of paper towels on the counter. Spread blueberries evenly in a single layer. Remove remaining blossoms.
Place clean blueberries in a large saucepan.
Mash berries until most are broken.
Add sugar, water, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring to a strong boil, then reduce heat to simmer for ten minutes, or until syrup coats the spoon. Stir often. After the syrup has thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve if skins are not desired.
Transfer into canning jars and cool before placing in the freezer or refrigerator. It will last in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Traditional Blueberry Farm Syrup
4 C fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 C cane sugar
1/2 C water
1 T cornstarch
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t lemon zest
2 T vanilla extract
Rinse berries thoroughly in cold water.
Add to saucepan with sugar, water, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer until sauce is thickened, about ten minutes. Stir when needed.
After syrup has thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla.
Store in fridge for up to two weeks or freeze.
If you would like to make an alternate fruit syrup, simply substitute the blueberries for the same amount of any other fruit you desire. Why not get creative and combine two or three fruits?! Traditional fruit syrups can elevate an otherwise simple dish like waffles and pancakes, ice cream, cheesecake or even marinades for meats. A blueberry salad dressing, using this syrup, over a pecan and goat cheese spinach salad is our personal favorite. Have you ever tried your hand at making fruit syrups? We would love to hear your story!