A few years ago, an Austrian friend gave me a jar of spruce tip honey he had made in a big pot in his yard, over a fire, upstate. I was fascinated by the idea. He told me that it is easy to make a spruce pine or fir tip syrup from the young green tips of the spruce tree, fir or pine tree.
The spruce tip syrup strangely tastes of wild strawberries and citrus with just a hint of pine. This is strange I know, but odd and beautiful at the same time!
I had planned to make it the following year but time slipped by and I found myself upstate at the wrong time to collect the young spruce tips. This year, however I was determined to make it! A forager friend and supplier, Evan Strusinksi, who collects for many well known chefs, sent me some spruce tips he collected in Southern Vermont. Simultaneously, we gathered a big batch of our own from upstate. So with a huge pile of spruce tips I set to work to make the mysteriously beautiful syrup! Spruce tips can also be used in various recipes; many chefs are using this wild ingredient on their spring menus. A little on line research came produced some quick shortbread, salts, pickled spruce tips and other interesting uses. So far, I have only had time to make the syrup but I have a big bag of tips in my refrigerator and they seem to keep quite well for a long time so perhaps I will get around to a bit more experimentation in the coming weeks.
Spruce, pine and fir tips are all edible and can be used to make syrup. They are very high in vitamin c. I imagined the syrup would be good on with seltzer, or in a cocktail mixed with a little gin and soda, on pancakes or in tea or as some research shows, it makes for a great spoonful of vitamin c to ward off and alleviate colds and sore throats! It seems like the perfect all around staple for a fall/winter pantry. In some parts of the country it is too late to pick the young tips but if you are lucky and you hurry you may be able to set a jar aside for winter use., You will want to pick the tips young because the resin qualities increase as they mature.
I found that with most things there were various techniques out there for making this syrup or honey as some call it.
I ended up going my own way because the jar that my Austrian friend had given me was quite dark in color and quite thick as opposed to the clear syrups I was seeing on line.
This recipe is really simple. I went with equal parts sugar and spruce tips and added a little extra water.
I combined all three and brought the tips and the sugar water to a boil making sure not to burn it or over boil the pot. I stirred constantly for 5 minutes or so to make sure all the sugar was dissolved. I then reduced the heat to a simmer and let it cook down slowly for three hours until it was a beautiful rose color and a little bit syrupy. It thickens quite a bit when cooled.
I then strained the tips out through a sieve and discarded them. I jarred the syrup in a sterilized quart jar and refrigerated it for later use. From what i have read on line, this syrup will last up to 4 months or longer if refrigerated.
See the below links for some interesting recipes found on line or check out The Wild Table by Connie Green for a salt recipe and a great spruce tip vodka. As with any wild food make sure to properly identify it before cooking with it or consuming it!
I used a different method to make mine but there is some interesting inspiration here.
SPRUCE TIP SYRUP/HONEY
5 cups spruce tips
6 cups water
5 cups sugar
Coarsely chop spruce tips
Combine water, spruce tips and sugar in a large pot.
Bring to a boil stirring constantly for five minutes.
Reduce heat and simmer for an hour or so on low or until the syrup thickens to your liking.
The color will be a light a rose.
Remember that the syrup will thicken as it cools, so you may want to test a spoonful by letting it cool to check desired consistency. If you over boil it and it becomes too thick, you can add some water to thin it down, but the color will end up be a darker honey color as opposed to the rose.
The longer you simmer it the thicker and darker it will become.