Spicebush Berry and Scotch-Infused Maple Syrup

The extravagant maple syrup you never knew you needed

Posted by Carolyn Dugas on April 30, 2021 · 7 minute read
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Spicebush-infused maple syrup

How to Infuse Your Own Maple Syrup

My first foray into infused maple syrup was an ill-fated hibiscus syrup a few years ago. Home for the holidays, I was bursting at the seams with excitement, ready to share this new creation with my maple-loving family. In a broad stroke of confidence, I infused all of the maple syrup in the house (half a jug) with hibiscus flowers. The resulting maroon syrup was a mixture of sweet and sour that was perfectly serviceable on pancakes, despite its unconventional flavor.

Unfortunately, my family was not as excited about being on the bleeding edge of maple syrup innovation as I was and the next morning it was declared that due to the lack of regular syrup, I had ruined Christmas. Although I am still surprised that an infused syrup could possess the power to ruin Christmas, my family has recovered and I now make sure to leave some plain syrup when concocting new infusions.

My favorite infused syrup I’ve made so far is flavored with cardamom, even though I can’t resist a good spicebush berry-infused syrup. Cardamom’s inimitable flavor is a delight when poured on any pancake, waffle, or other breakfast treat. I keep a jar of the hulled seeds on hand and grind them fresh in a spice grinder for the brightest flavor, although pre-ground cardamom is fine.

Freshly bottled maple syrup

Feel free to infuse any edible spice, root, or mushroom into the syrup! From my experiments, I’ve noted that warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and spicebush berries pair well with the maple flavor. Sour flavorings such as hibiscus are nice for maple syrup that will be used in savory applications like barbecue sauce.

And of course, syrup helps the medicine go down so you can use its sweetness to cloak the flavor of medicinal roots or mushrooms. For medicinal mushrooms, you may want to infuse for longer than 30 minutes. Just remember to add some extra water to replace the steam that’s evaporated.

Lastly, for those who are inclined, whisky and rum are delightful additions to syrup, as any New Englander will tell you. If you’d like to evaporate the alcohol, just stir the spirits in with the spices and simmer without a cover, but if you’d like to keep things boozy, strain the syrup and let it cool before you add the liquor in. I’ll leave the amounts to your discretion!

Let me know in the comments section below what your favorite combination for infused maple syrup is!

Different grades of maple syrup

Spicebush-Berry Infused Maple Syrup Recipe

Here is my basic infused maple syrup recipe, modeled with spicebush. It's disturbingly good with a little bit of scotch or whisky stirred in. There are tips on how to work with your own combination of spices, mushrooms, etc. in the notes below. This recipe scales nicely. It was inspired by herbalist Anna Cohen Booth's Instagram post on infused maple syrup a few years ago.

  • Makes: 1 cup
  • Active time: 5 minutes
  • Inactive time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 8 crushed frozen spicebush berries
  • (optional) 1 Tablespoon scotch, I prefer Bunnahabhain

Infused Maple Syrup Directions

  1. Combine the maple syrup, water and spicebush berries in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to maintain the simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. To keep the syrup’s concentration the same as it was initially, measure the volume of the syrup mixture. If you have more than 1 cup of syrup, continue to simmer it on the stove, uncovered, until it reaches 1 cup in volume. If you have too little syrup, add enough water to bring the volume back up to 1 cup.
  3. Once you have exactly 1 cup of syrup, place a piece of cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl and strain the spices out of the warm maple syrup. The cheesecloth is necessary because if bits of spice are left in, the syrup can start to crystallize. Discard the spices and pour the syrup into a clean bottle. Stir in the scotch or whisky, if using, and store in the fridge.

Infused Maple Syrup Notes

  • My favorite infused maple syrup is made by swapping out the spicebush berries in the recipe above for 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground cardamom seeds.
  • To use your own spice combination, I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon, or the equivalent amount, of your spice for a culinary syrup. For a medicinal syrup, you'll want to use more. After 30 minutes of simmering, if the flavor isn't strong enough, you can simply continue to simmer, or add in more of the spice and keep simmering.
  • Warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and spicebush berries pair well with the maple flavor.
  • To infuse the syrup with medicinal mushrooms, you'll have to tinker with the amount of mushrooms that you want to use to balance flavor with medicinal qualities. In general, mushrooms need to simmer for a while so make sure to add extra water in the beginning or check back frequently so that you don't over-reduce the syrup and accidentally scorch it.
  • Whisky and rum are delightful additions to syrup, as any New Englander will tell you. If you’d like to evaporate the alcohol, just stir the spirits in with the spices and simmer without a cover, but if you’d like to keep things boozy, strain the syrup and let it cool before you add the liquor in, as I did in the recipe above.
  • To make the infamous hibiscus syrup, add the maple syrup and water to the pot, then add about 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as directed. In its defense, it would be excellent in a more savory situation like barbecue sauce.
  • Over time, the syrup may start to crystalize in the bottle, especially if it wasn't strained completely. If you see crystals forming, just sit the bottle in a warm water bath until the syrup heats up and the crystals dissolve.
  • Infused maple syrup makes for great holiday gifts. (Except, apparently, hibiscus maple syrup!)

Carolyn Dugas, Forager

ABOUT ME

I was born and raised in the woods of New England, where I fed "moss smoothies" to unsuspecting strangers as a child. Mercifully, my wild food skills have improved since then, thanks in part to a year-long foraging apprenticeship in 2017. Since then, I have been collecting and preparing wild foods on a daily basis. Learn more here.



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