13th June 2013

Earlier we looked at preserving using lacto-fermentation. Another way of harnessing the flavours of plants is by making syrups.

Although they won’t last indefinitely they are simple and cheap to make and if made correctly will keep for some while, especially unopened, allowing you to extend the period of using certain plants.  To begin you need to make a stock syrup solution. To do this simply dissolve a sugar in water, recipes very but an equal volume in ml of water to grams of granulated sugar works well. Place both in a large pan, bring to the boil stirring until the sugar is dissolved, although some recipes may call for the addition of say lemon juice or citric acid these aren’t essential and most things will work using just the stock syrup on its own.

To make your flavoured syrup simply place as much of the plant as possible in the hot syrup and leave for 24 hours for the flavour to infuse into the syrup then strain through some muslin cloth or a jelly bag into sterilised bottles.  The help make sure they are completely sterilised and are therefore less likely to go mouldy, place your bottles of flavoured syrup into a tall pan, have the lids on but done up losley. Fill the pan to the top with boiling water and put on to the stove and bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Then do up the caps of the bottles tightly, leave in the pan to cool down slowly.


This effectively pasteurises the syrup and should lengthen its shelf life.  Once cool store in the fridge.  Once the bottle is opened it should be used within a few weeks and kept in the fridge.

There are a vast array of plants that can be used to make flavoured syrups. Any fragrant flowers will work; try Hawthorn, Rowan, Elder, Blackthorn, Cherry, Gorse, Cow Parsley, Sweet Violet, Roses, Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadowsweet etc. You can also capture the flavour of conifers such as Pine, Spruce and Fir.  All the mint family work well, so does Pineapple Weed and Chamomile. Plants that contain coumarin such as dried Sweet Woodruff and Meliot work well and you can also try things like Wood Aven roots, Hogweed seeds etc. The key is to have a play and experiment, try combining flavours.  At the moment there is so much around that can be used it is worth making a big batch of the stock syrup and then making several flavoured syrups at the same time.

From left to right: Woodruff, Grand Fir, Rowan Blossom, Norway Spruce.
Once made, the syrups can be used in a variety of ways. Drizzle over pancakes or ice cream, dilute and use as a cordial, use to make sorbets and granitas, flavour ice cream and custards, glaze meats, mix with alcoholic drinks to create new cocktails the list is endless.

Kev Palmer

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