illustration by Sharon Floro
A particularly exciting preparation if you have many serviceberries is to make syrup, as New York City-based forager and blogger Marie Viljoen does in her book Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine. Viljoen mixes a 1:1 ratio of serviceberries to sugar by weight (the amounts below are a guideline), allows the sugar to draw the liquid from the berries, and then lets the whole works sit until it ferments a bit. The resulting syrup is fantastic shaken with cocktails or stirred into fizzy water. But my favorite part are the shriveled, sticky berries left after straining out the syrup. Dehydrate them and they are tiny nuggets of pure sweet pleasure, their marzipan-kissed essence concentrated and beguiling. (Don’t dehydrate the berries straight from the branches; they’ll wind up wan and Styrofoam-like).
2 lb. ripe serviceberries
2 lb. granulated sugar
Combine the fruit and sugar in a large glass jar or jars. Add the lid and shake and tilt the bottle to distribute the sugar evenly. Shake it up every day, and after a week you will see the red syrup gathering in the bottom. When fermentation begins to take place—you will hear a hiss when you open the jar—it is a good idea to allow gas to escape one day (or just cover the jar’s mouth with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band). More syrup will form until it covers the fruit. You can leave this fermentation with
fruit to mature for a few weeks, or you can strain it as soon as you have enough syrup. Refrigerate the syrup.
The fruit left behind after straining the syrup can be used while still moist and syrupy in baking, and in savory dishes (especially with duck). It can also be dehydrated until still moist and pliable, like small raisins.
This recipe is from Marie Viljoen’s book Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine (Chelsea Green Publishing, August 2018) and are reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Sara is a chef and writer. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, her writing has appeared in Saveur, Best Food Writing 2014, and two Full Grown People anthologies. Her cookbook Tasting Ohio: Favorite Recipes from the Buckeye State is forthcoming from Farcountry Press. She lives in Marietta.