I remember as a kid spending a lot of time in Sandwich, Massachusetts, just on the edge of the Cape. We’d camp–and when I say camp, I mean stay log cabins with electricity, sometimes roughing it with the fully functioning shared bathroom a few yards outside the door–swim, hike and play mini golf. But my favorite activity (mini golf was a very close second) was blueberry picking. We’d head up in late summer when the berries were perfectly ripe.
The goal of our blueberry picking adventures was to harvest enough berries for pancakes the next morning and snacking for most of the week. My brother and I (we were probably about 7 and 2 around that time) were fitted with the farm’s ingenious blueberry pickers–a half-gallon milk jug with the top cut off for easy filling capacity and a string attached to the jug’s handle that would go around our neck like a necklace, leaving two hands free for efficient pickling.
A few hours later my parents would have their jugs filled (they often got a full gallon because they were bigger) and my brother and I struggled to fill ours by even a quarter. Yet, somehow when it was time to stop for lunch, we had very little appetite. I think the unspoken rule between the two of us because “5 berries for me, one in the jug”. I’m not sure we were encouraged to snack on that many berries without paying, but the farm never complained (unless my parents still secretly paid for the maybe 2-3 pints we both consumed.
We spent a lot of time (fake) camping in the Poconos, time at the beach, a trip to Niagara Falls and even a visit to Disney World when I was young, but for some reason our returning trips to Sandwich is one of my most vivid and treasured vacations with my dad, and those blueberry picking trips probably a source of my ongoing love for blueberries. It’s another fruit I find myself eating only during the growing season, because California blueberries in December just don’t cut it. But when I can get my hands on some fresh New Jersey or New York blueberries, I tend to go a bit crazy.
In addition to the muffins and pancakes and cobbler, I was in the mood for soda. My in-laws gave us a soda stream for Christmas, a gift I was extremely excited about but knew I wouldn’t really get much use out of it until the summer produce started to ripen. I first tried it with some violet syrup and vodka–quite a success. Then there was my accidental strawberry rhubarb pie cocktail. My next experiment would be blueberries, after the many fantastic blueberry blended sodas I’ve had from Brooklyn Soda Works. I ended up with a lemon blueberry syrup and blueberry sage. Both followed the same basic recipe from P&H Soda Co.’s Make Your Own Soda. The slight tragedy–unlike my violet syrup that I’m still enjoying now, these syrups only have a shelf life of about a week. So drink up!
Lemon Blueberry Syrup (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 c blueberries
- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
In a medium pot set over medium heat, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring until berries start to pop, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and crush berries further with a potato masher. Cover and let cool on the stove until cool to the touch, then refrigerate mixture overnight. The next day, strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing as much syrup and pulp through the sieve as possible with the back of a wooden spoon. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Blueberry Sage Syrup (Makes about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 c blueberries
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
In a small pot set over medium heat, combine blueberries, sugar and lemon. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring until berries start to pop, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and crush berries further with a potato masher. Stir in chopped sage. Cover and let cool on the stove until cool to the touch, then refrigerate mixture overnight. The next day, strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing as much syrup and pulp through the sieve as possible with the back of a wooden spoon. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
TO ENJOY YOUR SODA: Add 1-2 tablespoons of syrup to a 10oz glass (depending how sweet you like your soda) and top with soda water (leave room for ice!). Stir the syrup and water, top with a few ice cubes and enjoy immediately.