One of the best ways to preserve wild fruit and berries I know of, my berry gastrique is a sort of sweet and sour syrup. It'll be a favorite at your house too once you give it a try.
Sweet and sour syrup, or gastrique as it's known among chefs, is a little-known cousin to your typical wild fruit preserves that is one of my favorite to keep on hand all year round. It's a simple, easy way to put up your wild fruit, and i've especially designed this one to work for fruits with lots of seeds, skins, and other things that might get to be a bit much in jam or jelly.
Traditionally, gastrique just refers to a sort of sweet and sour sauce incorporating vinegar, often made with chicken stock or other things, but nowdays, depending on who you ask, it's used to describe different types of syrupy sauces, typically using fruit, but not always. I've taken the liberty to make it into a shelf-stable preserve alternative to typical jams and jellies. Because variety.
Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana, pictured) as well as wild black cherries (Prunus serotina) are a perfect example (and my personal favorite) but just about any ripe little fruit will work, especially juicy, dark things like wild grapes, elderberries, raspberries, or other Rosoideae like blackcap raspberries. The darker and seedier, the better.
The proportions here will give you about a qt jar, or two pints, and the best part of all is that if you look closely, you'll see you don’t need a recipe, but I've included one for your first go-round. Put your fruit in a saucepot and barely cover with 1:2 water and vinegar (or 50/50) then boil, mash, strain the liquid, and combine it with equal parts by volume of sugar and boil for a few minutes, then pour into canning jars, turn upside down to seal, or can in a water bath. The gastrique syrup can also be stored in the fridge.
The addition of vinegar is important here, typically only water and sugar are used in preservation methods like this, but adding some vinegar gives you the flexibility to use is with game meat, as well as with desserts, pancakes, ice cream bases, drinks, etc. Can you make it without vinegar? Sure, but then it's just sugar syrup, and that gets too sweet for me.
The other secret too, is that vinegar, like alcohol, has a sort of magic property when it comes into contact with fruit and things with strong, fruity aromas. Think of the sauce here as a sort of dual-flavor extraction method. Try it out with the small batch I outline below to get the hang of it, then feel free to freestyle and create your own batches, blends, etc. If it doesn't become your new favorite fruit preserve, I'll send you a full refund.
Sweet and Sour Cherry, Berry or Grape Syrup
- 5 cups chokecherries raspberries, wild grapes, elderberries, highbush cranberries, or another small berry with a lot of pit/seeds and little fruit/juice
- 1 cups water or substitute fruit juice like cherry or grape
- 2 cup white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar for dark fruits
- 3 cups sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Wash the berries, then add the water, and vinegar to the pot.
- The berries should be just barely covered by liquid, with a few bobbing around here and there, a technical term we call “floating hippos” in the kitchen.
- Bring the pot to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes on low heat. Mash the berries, or use a hand blender to break them up, simmer for a few minutes more, then strain the liquid and combine it with it’s volume of sugar (equal parts). Boil for another 5 minutes, or until the syrup barely coats the back of a spoon, then transfer to jars and store. The syrup will be shelf stable canned in small jars and kept in a pantry, frozen, or refrigerated.
way waaaaay tooooooo sweet and took over an hour to thicken! too much liquid and way too much sugar. I used red grapes ... the caramel (only 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water) should be made and thickened first then the fruit and vinegar added and reduced so the fruit is not having to cook for hours.
Hi there, there's nothing wrong with this recipe. The problem is that you used red table grapes, which contain much more water and sugar. As it says in the title of the recipe, this is made for small, tart, WILD stone fruit or small fruit with seeds, like wild grapes, or wild cherries. If you want something made with red grapes from a grocery store you might try Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray.
Would sour cherries work for this? I have a sour cherry tree in my yard and still have some cherries in the freezer.
Yes they'll work fine.
I started making this recipe over a year ago. Usually with aronia and elderberry. It is a staple around my kitchen now. I have used it as a drizzle on pawpaw cheesecake, in cocktails & sodas, on pancakes even across salads with lemon and olive oil. I have turned several friends on to the recipe who keep it in hand now also!
So I can mix chokecherrys and elderberries together?
Oh you definitely can. But, the tart, tannic flavor of chokecherries is excellent here, and if you have lots of chokecherries, I'd consider making one just out of them since the red color is so vibrant. If you have a high powered blender, you might consider blitzing the chokecherries to release some of their almond aroma trapped in the stones (the amygdalin they contain is denatured by heat). Mix and match whatever you like, just don't use red grapes from the store like the one commenter in here, lol.
Woweee this is good! Made it yesterday with grapes from my sisters backyard. I boiled it for too long because I forgot to consider the hot water bath to can it. So it was perfect and then I boiled in a canner for 20 more minutes. Oops. I guess now I have a sweet & sour cracker spread. ???? Excited to try this with chokecherries next year.
Trust me, happens to the best of us. Chokecherries, aronia berries, elderberries and wild grapes will be the best here.
Tried this with foraged Oregon grape, a must of home made apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, and some thyme from the garden. Used a bit less water and about 3/4 of the sugar. Amazing! Thank you!
Recipes are just a guideline. The sugar helps the viscosity but if you use the right fruit you can get some natural thickness from it. Glad you could get some inspiration from it.
I am thinking of trying Oregon grape next season. They are very tart all on their own. Would you still add the same ratio of vinegar?
I would still add the vinegar. Chokecherries are tart and tannic and I add it with them.
Made this today with a huge grape harvest from my fence line. I made an Italian soda with it and it was amazing. We enjoyed making cocktails with it as well. Thanks for the recipe!
Glad it worked for you.
So, I would love to try this with sour cherries but I want to can it. How long in a water bath? Does it change anything else?
Kristen, so this is an acidic recipe, it does not need to be water bath canned, but if you're more comfortable doing that, go for it. Just follow directions for water bath processing for pickles using whatever recommended times. 10 minutes for pints should be fine, longer for quarts. Personally I just pour it boiling hot into jars, screw on the lids, turn the jars upside down and allow them to cool, as for maple syrup. This is more stable than maple syrup though as it contains vinegar. After opening it needs to be refrigerated or it will ferment into vinegar.
Alan, thanks! Excellent recipe. I used freshly picked wild black cherries. Was hesitant to use vinegar for a syrup, but I did decide use red wine vinegar and a tablespoon of lime juice. Glad I did. Vibrant, deep cherry flavor! Will make again next season.
Steve, glad it worked for you, and yes, it's one of my favorite fruit preserves-super versatile.
We have these incredibly, tiny, almost black wild grapes growing in the treetops of our local park. I love the results from your recipe and will be giving bottles of this delicious elixir to friends and family. Thank you!
Glad it worked for you!
I want to make this but first I want to know how and what to use it for once I do make it. I have never heard of a gastrique before reading your page. I have about 10 lbs of wild black cherries to try and figure out what to do with.
Use wherever you would use maple syrup. It's also good with game and poultry. Ice cream, all kinds of things.
Can I replace any part of the vinegar with lemon or lime juice in this recipe? I intend to make this gastrique syrup using wild grapes only...
No. Fresh citrus has a variable pH and will not be as stable, it also gets bitter when cooked. If you want some citrus flavor (I would only use lemon or orange) add some zest to taste after cooking, and a splash of juice. The combination of vinegar and citrus together is really lovely.
I'm wondering if anyone has experimented using Dewberries which are closely related to Blackberries but more tart.
They grow wild here in Texas and I really want to make a Dewberry Gastrique for a lamb confit I'm preparing.
They will work just fine! Enjoy.
I have a bunch of black currants in my freezer. Do you think I could make this gastritis with black currants?
Yes. Currants will work too. They're also very good made into Cassis.
Thank you so much for this lesson and wonderful sauce! Did with mainly rose hips with touch of cranberry and raspberry. Served with spruce mousse . Will definitely make again- nice to have a technique to use with awkward seedy wild fruits. Thanks!