Homemade Cloudberry Syrup – For Belgian Waffles and Italian Sodas

Although ripe cloudberries are golden amber in color, the syrup they produce is a luminescent dark pink. Thick and flavorful, mixed with carbonated water, the syrup makes refreshing Italian sodas. This morning, it topped our Belgian waffles.

We’ve already turned about 20 pounds of freshly picked cloudberries¬†(click here to see cloudberry photos) into two kinds of jam as well as sorbet. Our most recent venture out on the tundra yielded another eight pounds that I hadn’t counted on. When I asked a berry-picking friend what she thought I should make, she enthusiastically replied, “Syrup!”

The syrup, which is easy to make, turned out a beautiful dark pink color. I hadn’t expected this because the fruit I started with was a lovely salmon color. The seeds seemed to color the juice. I made freezer jam with the remaining pulp in order to save every luscious part of the berries. I thought if the “pulp jam” didn’t look good, it could still be used as a key ingredient in fruit breads. Any kind of berries could be used to make this syrup with an adjustment to the amount of sugar used.

Aqpik (Cloudberry) Syrup

Ingredients: (Yields 4 cups syrup)

  • 10 cups of berries
  • 4 cups of water
  • 3 cups granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Place berries and water in a large pot. Cook on medium high heat.
  2. Boil berries for about 15 minutes.
  3. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Elevate strainer over a bowl so that syrup can drain through cheesecloth and into the bowl. (I used a strainer that stands by itself set on a wire cooling rack set on a large mixing bowl.)
  4. Place berries in pot and puree them using an immersion or stick blender.
  5. Pour pureed berries and all liquids from pot into cheesecloth lined strainer.
  6. Let berries sit in strainer for at least two hours to drain off liquid.
  7. Take the liquid that has drained into the large mixing bowl and put it in a pot.
  8. Add sugar to the pot.
  9. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until syrup boils.
  10. Skim off any foam and discard.
  11. Pour juice into canning jars to freeze or into decorative bottles to refrigerate.

Summer Blueberry Picking on the Arctic Tundra

Friends from Shishmaref after an afternoon of blueberry picking. Gathering a cupful or two of these small, tart berries growing in scattered clumps across the tundra was work… the fun kind. The following morning, we celebrated with a stack of blueberry waffles.

Accustomed to the six and seven-foot tall blueberry bushes of Oregon where Barbra and I had picked berries by the bucketful when I lived in Astoria, we were surprised to learn that blueberries were growing right under our feet on our walks through the tundra near Shishmaref. “There’s lots,” one of my students told us. “We’re going to go tomorrow. You guys can follow.”

“Follow” is the village English way of saying “come along.” And sure enough, once we learned to key in on the unmistakable Autumn-red of the bushes (if ground-hugging plants that top out at six-inches can properly be called bushes), we began finding an abundance of small, perfectly ripe, deliciously tart berries. The comparatively thick, woody stems of some of these bushes suggested that they had weathered quite a few seasons near the Arctic Circle. Growing among the blueberries were crowberries (locally called blackberries) and low bush cranberries. Elsewhere in the far north, including in Europe, there are cloudberries, perhaps the most delicious berry on earth.

We walked along in the late summer sun, finding patches of berries here and there, crouching and kneeling to pick, and then moving on to find another patch of tell-tale red. Birds were out sharing the bounty – or maybe the insects associated wtih the fruit: lapland longspurs, white-crowned sparrows, savanah sparrows, and other small birds.

The pause that refreshes. A berry-picker gazes across the open tundra on Sarichef Island where Shishmaref is located, snacking on a bag of berries that probably aren’t going to make it all the way home. The red leaves near her feet? Yep. Blueberries!