Courtesy Jordan Champagne, co-proprietor, Happy Girl Kitchen Co., Pacific Grove
Makes 4 cups
The flavor of strawberry syrup is fresh and bright. It couldn’t be more fun to make fresh strawberry soda with the kids. The technique for extracting juice from strawberries is the same for all berries and stone fruits. You do not need to slice the fruit, but it helps with larger fruit like peaches to extract more juice. Also, the technique can vary depending on the fruits. For blueberries, I would add a little heat, for instance. Because of their thick skins, they are less likely to release their juices from just sitting in sugar.
4 pounds strawberries (about 4 baskets)
2 cups organic sugar (or as little as 1¼ cups, if you prefer)
1½ cups fresh lemon juice (any variety)
Starting with fresh, organic strawberries is best. You may use strawberries that range from just under ripe to over ripe. Wash and hull the strawberries. If they are extra large, then you may want to halve them. Next, place the strawberries in a bowl or pot. Pour the lemon juice over them and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Now, let them sit; the sugar will pull the juice out of the strawberries. You may let them sit at room temperature for up to 36 hours. To let them soak longer, put them in the fridge for up to a week if you can’t get to them before then. After a week, they start to ferment, resulting in wine rather than syrup. I like this process for extracting juices from fruits because it does not involve cooking and the flavors stay super fresh!
Once the syrup extraction is done, simply strain the juice from the berries in a large colander, strainer or cloth, letting gravity pull out the remaining juice. Do not push down on the berries as this will make the liquid cloudy. You now have your strawberry syrup. The leftover strawberries can be used in baked goods (scones!) or smoothies or frozen for later use. I do not recommend making jam with them because it really needs the syrup for a nice texture.
At any part in the process, you may add flavors. I like making a batch of pure syrup and then adding flavor to the individual jars that I pack them in. Put a sprig of rosemary in a jar or try some fresh lavender buds. I also like the classics, strawberry mint and strawberry basil. Try spicing it up with some grated ginger. It can be really fun to make micro-batches.
The syrup will keep in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you freeze it in small containers, it will keep for up to 1 year. You may also bottle it in jars that are meant for hot water bath canning, processing them for 10 minutes. You will need to bring the syrup to a boil and pour it into the bottles hot. The flavor will change with this last method of storage because you are heating the syrup, but it will keep longer.
The syrup is great for use in natural soda. About 1 part syrup to 3 or 4 parts sparkling water makes a refreshing and delightful beverage. The syrup is also fabulous as a drizzle on baked goods and other desserts, such as ice cream.