Fruit Syrups

Syrup. For most of us, the word brings to mind pancakes or waffles drizzled with—OK, drowning in—liquid maple sugar or its cheaper, corn syrup–based counterpart. But as you start harvesting from your garden, the word expands to endless options based on the fruits of summer and enhanced with herbs.

My love of fruit syrups grew when I learned how to extract bonus jars of the flavor-packed liquid from fruit solids intended for jam—and make jam more easily in the process. Syrups are less finicky than jelly but can still be processed for long-term storage or simply stashed in the fridge. Traditionally made from boiled fruit that’s been strained to separate its juice, I’ve found a cold method separates the juice even more effectively from almost any fruit and a roasted method gives an extra boost of flavor.

Syrup is more than just liquid maple sugar or its cheaper, corn syrup–based counterpart. Fruits offer unlimited homemade options. Learn to make Freezer-Based Fruit Syrup and Roasted-Fruit Syrup.

Freezer-Based Fruit Syrup

  • Servings: 2 half-pint jars
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
These are basic instructions for a syrup based on frozen fruit, giving you the techniques that I’ve found to work best. For ideas on fruits to use, read the Tips & Tricks that follow the recipe.

3 pounds fresh fruit
up to 1-1/2 cups sugar
at least 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
fresh or dried herbs or flowers to taste (optional)

Harvest, clean, and prepare your fruit, ensuring it is free of dirt and inedible parts and slicing it as needed. Pack the fruit into a labeled, 1-gallon zip-close freezer bag, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing. Place in the coldest part of your freezer until completely frozen.

To make syrup, move the bag to a large bowl in the refrigerator overnight, until completely defrosted. Set a colander over a 1-quart or larger glass measuring cup, and then pour the bag’s contents into the colander; stir gently, and then let sit until the juice stops dripping. Set the solids aside for another use. Measure out the same amount of sugar as you have liquid, likely about 1-1/2 cups.

Add all ingredients to a 2-quart or larger saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook at least 1 minute, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup starts to cling to a spoon, and up to 30 minutes, until the syrup is thick. As the syrup boils, skim off as much foam as possible.

Ladle into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, plus your altitude adjustment. Alternatively, freeze in an ice cube tray or in 1/2-cup freezer containers or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Makes about 2 half-pint jars.

Tips & Tricks
  • This method is fabulous for berries, apricots, peaches, and other fruits that readily break down during the freeze–thaw cycle. Denser fruits release more liquid when roasted (see below).
  • The 1:1 liquid-to-sugar ratio helps set up the syrup and preserve it on the shelf and upon opening. Neutral white sugar is ideal for light fruits, but agave or honey work with minimal cooking time.
  • Equal parts sugar and liquid makes the math easy, but juice from dense fruit may not fill your 1/2-pint jars. To bring your liquid up to 1-1/2 cups, add water, the “juice” left from blanching ginger for pickling, lightly brewed tea, or other flavored liquid.
  • I love combining fruit with herbs. Rhubarb and ginger or rosemary, golden raspberry and wild rose petal or lavender, strawberry and chamomile or lilac, and red raspberry and rosemary or thyme are just a few of my favorite blends.
  • You can simply float fresh flowers in the syrup, but dried flowers and fresh herbs may be better tied into a scrap of cheesecloth. Infusion not only keeps your syrup free of herb flecks but also prevents the herb flavor from strengthening on the shelf.

Twice as Tasty

Syrup is more than just liquid maple sugar or its cheaper, corn syrup–based counterpart. Fruits offer unlimited homemade options. Learn to make Freezer-Based Fruit Syrup and Roasted-Fruit Syrup.The effect of roasting or grilling fruit is almost miraculous; it alters the flavor in an unexpected yet delicious way as the natural, and perhaps added, sugars caramelize. It’s part of what makes fruit crisps so delicious, and it’s a fabulous addition to the range of flavors possible in a fruit syrup.

Roasting is also an efficient and mess-free way to separate fruit solids and juice. Instead of simmering the fruit in a pan, which can lead to sticking and splattering, the pan goes into the oven and cooks slowly. My preferred method adds some of the sugar needed to set and preserve the syrup to the raw fruit, lets maceration start to pull the juice out of the fruit, and then roasts the sweetened fruit to increase caramelization. At that point, it takes great willpower to pour off the roasted juice—and even more willpower to save the solids for jam—instead of just grabbing a spoon and digging in.

Roasted-Fruit Syrup

  • Servings: 2 half-pint jars
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
These are basic instructions for a syrup created from roasted fruit, giving you the techniques that I’ve found to work best. For ideas on fruits to use, read the Tips & Tricks that follow the recipe.

3 pounds fresh fruit
2 to 2-1/2 cups sugar, divided
at least 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
fresh or dried herbs or flowers to taste (optional)

Harvest and prepare the fruit as you would for Freezer-Based Fruit Syrup, ensuring it is clean, dry, and sliced or chopped as needed. Place the fruit in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and toss with 1-1/2 cups of sugar. Let the pan sit overnight in a cold oven to macerate, until the sugar starts to release the juice.

Roast at 400°F for about 25 minutes, until the fruit is soft. Pull the pan from the oven and let it cool enough to handle. If the fruit still holds shape, mash it lightly with a large spoon. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a 1-quart or larger measuring cup, and add the pan’s contents, stirring gently to strain off the juice. Depending on the fruit, you should have about 1-1/2 cups of liquid. Reserve the solids for another use.

Pour the juice into a 2-quart or larger saucepan. For 1-1/2 cups of liquid, add at least another 1/2 cup of sugar if you plan to freeze or refrigerate the syrup or 1 cup of sugar if you intend to process it. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook 1–30 minutes, until it reaches your desired thickness. Skim off as much foam as possible.

Store reduced-sugar syrup in the refrigerator or freeze it in an ice cube tray. Full-sugar syrup can be ladled into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, plus your altitude adjustment. Makes about 2 half-pint jars.

Tips & Tricks
  • My first adventure in roasting fruit for syrup used raspberries, but any fruit you would bake into a pie or other dessert works beautifully. Rhubarb, apples, pears, and other dense fruits take particularly well to the macerate-and-roast combination.
  • If you roast berries, seeds may slip through a fine-mesh sieve. Straining again, through a layer of cheesecloth, separates solids more quickly than straining through close-knit cheesecloth initially.
  • More sugar means a thicker, long-lived, yet sweeter syrup. The reduced-sugar version is best for freezer or fridge storage. White sugar’s neutral flavor doesn’t compete with the fruit, but turbinado or brown sugar holds up well to the roasted depth.
  • As with Freezer-Based Fruit Syrup, any number of herbs can be added to the batch. I tend toward woody herbs with roasted syrups, such as rosemary and thyme, rather than light herbs and flowers.
  • Roasted syrups, particularly thick ones, are darker in the jar than jewel-bright freezer-based or lightly reduced syrup. The tradeoff is worth it; the process produces intense flavor.


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