Ah, maple syrup. The one, the only, the don’t even try to replace me with honey here maple syrup. Who knew that maple syrup was such a delicacy? Growing up in northern Michigan, you could find bottles of this stuff in every storefront and every roadside market near and far. Everyone knows someone who makes it themselves and hands out glass mason jars full of the stuff for no reason at all. I never actually considered that there weren’t maple trees in a spring climate of above freezing days and below freezing nights everywhere. Here I go to tell you another Scotland story, though. This is good, I promise. I obviously prepared myself for a bit of a food shift when we moved there, but I mean, it’s the UK! English speaking! How different can it be? Speaking of maple syrup specifically, it is so wonderful I’m sure it’s shipped everywhere around the world, right? Ha, you know where this is going.
I use maple syrup a lot. I love to bake with it, I love it for breakfast, I love it stirred into tea. And although I do appreciate honey and the different flavors it brings to the table, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the woodsy, tastes like you are standing next to a tree, delicious maple syrup. Now in the UK, they love their honey. You can find 27 varieties of honey on a single shelf in the grocery store, but not one single bottle of maple syrup. I once saw a “maple flavored” corn syrup that was next to the packaged precooked pancakes, probably there for any stray Americans, but it looked awful. One day, I finally found what I had been looking for. It was a lone dusty bottle sitting on the top shelf of a small health food store I used to visit frequently, and it was labeled “acorn syrup”. How cute. After I read the packaging, found out that it was shipped from Canada and was truly maple syrup, I practically ran to the register to buy it. I was already dreaming up adding it to my muffins, quick breads, oatmeal, and of course pancakes when the clerk said politely “That will be 35 pounds and 10 pence, please.” Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with British to American conversions, this is about $50 US dollars. I paid up, and knowing my husband was going to have a heart attack when he learned what I spent on syrup, on my entire trek home I devised ways that I could cleverly stretch this bottle of goodness to last me about a year until my mom could smuggle some of northern Michigan’s finest sap into her suitcase when she came to visit. For the record, she did this for me…twice.
Enter blueberry syrup. I make this almost every weekend, and my kids love it, I love it, and it’s easy on the wallet. Everyone wins. Not only do you get a hint of the maple flavor, but you are also drastically reducing the amount of sugar you are pouring on your breakfast and you are adding in a healthy dose of antioxidants from the berries. Plus, you will be using way, way less syrup than if you poured it straight onto your breakfast plate. See how much longer this bottle is going to last you? If you add a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter to the top of your pancakes before pouring this on top, you have a glorified PB&J that no one could turn down. Please, please don’t try and save money by buying the cheaper fake pancake syrups (like Mrs. Butterworth’s or Hungry Jack), they are full of artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, corn syrup, and some brands even contain aspartame. No thanks. The only ingredient listed on the back of your bottle should be “maple syrup”. Instead, buy a quality bottle of the real thing and make it last using this trick.
- 1 cup frozen blueberries, wild organic preferred
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- Small squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
- In a small saucepan, add the frozen blueberries* and the maple syrup over medium/low heat. Let come to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally, and use the back of your spoon to break up the berries a bit, until they are all defrosted. The syrup should turn a rich purple color. If you would like a brighter flavor, you can add a small squeeze of lemon juice here. If you desire, you can then pour the syrup into a blender and blend until smooth, but I really prefer the whole berries for texture.
- *Note: You really need to use wild, frozen blueberries here. Fresh blueberries don't have the same juice and they are usually much larger. Wild blueberries are very small and they have a very concentrated flavor, which really shines through in this recipe. I get my frozen wild blueberries at Trader Joe's, they are very reasonably priced.
- **Note: If you have extra syrup, just store it in a glass jar in your refrigerator. If you opted to blend the syrup, note that the pectin released from the blueberries from blending will cause the syrup to thicken and gel up a bit, almost like a preserve.
Side note: If you can, buy your maple syrup in glass bottles! I think the plastic jugs give a little bit of plastic flavor to the syrup, and no one wants that.
Another side note: Blueberry syrup is tricky for those dipping kiddos, it stains! If you care about what your kid’s pajamas look like (I really don’t) then make sure you spray any syrup drips with white vinegar, it really helps get the stain out.