Chile Blackberry Syrup (+ Bonus Spicy Booze!)

I’ve wanted to try this chile blackberry syrup from Heidi for ages: last year’s blackberry harvest was a bust, so I filed the recipe away in my bookmarks and waited, longingly, for August to roll around once more. The blink of an eye (and a whole lotta blog posts) later, August is here once again, and I’ve been up to Greig Farm in Red Hook twice, with Miss Julia, picking and picking and picking, determined to squirrel away as much of the glorious, sticky, purple-black, sweet-sour goodness as I can. Of course, Heidi’s chile blackberry syrup was tops on my list.

I was out of guajillo peppers, so I tried an ancho. And just in case that wasn’t spicy enough, I threw a few Arbol chiles in the mix. And it was good: thick, smoky, spicy, but not overwhelming so, with a slow burn reminiscent of a good Mexican molé sauce. But… it was more chile than blackberry, if you know what I mean. I wanted a bit more than a hint of blackberry, and I wanted to try a cleaner, brighter note of spice, without all the smoke of an ancho or chipotle. So I made a second batch (a girl can never have enough spicy fruit syrup on hand, in my opinion), doubling the amount of blackberry and (thankfully) using only a quarter-ounce of my fiery red dried local chiles, leftover from last October’s harvest. This one? This one is spicy like KAPOW! right in the kisser. There’s nothing subtle about it, but the heat does build, so at first you think “Wow, that’s spicy,” and then a minute later “Holy crap, that’s spicy,” and then a minute later, as you’re breathing fire yet reaching for more, “<cough. cough. cough> SPICY. And GOOD.”

They’re both good. I’ll use them in different ways: the ancho has a more savory note, so I see it as a glaze for meat on the grill or the key component of a fantastic braising sauce in the dreary dead of winter. The blackberry comes through more in the spicy! chile version, so I see that over ice cream or as the finishing note to a fancy berry tart. The solids leftover from straining the syrup went into two infusions: vodka & vinegar. Great for weekend sipping, winter cooking, or a Saturday night Spicy Booze Party. And just a dollop of syrup in a glass of prosecco is guaranteed to pop open even the most hungover eyes of a Sunday morning. Just in case you over-indulge in Spicy Booze the night before. Not that I ever would. (Hi Mom!)

Adapted from Chile Blackberry Syrup by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks

————————————————————

Ancho Blackberry Syrup

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 and 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 1 cup dark Muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 ancho chile (1 oz), stemmed and chopped
  • 6 small Arbol chiles (1/8 oz), stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup (4 oz) blackberries

Spicy! Chile Blackberry Syrup

  • 1 and 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 1 cup dark Muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • about a dozen small, fiery hot dried red chiles (1/4 oz), stemmed (Arbols or tiny Thai chiles would work)
  • 2 cups (8 oz) blackberries

METHODS

  1. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. Combine sugars, water, lemon juice and chiles, with seeds, in a large saucepan. Use a larger pan than you think you need. Syrup will foam – a lot. You’ll think you have it under control, and then, when your back is turned, distracted by a funny soccer anecdote on Twitter, the syrup will overflow your pan, spewing spicy-sweet molten lava all over your stove. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a low boil until thick and syrupy, about 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Remove syrup from heat, add blackberries, stir to coat, and allow berries to soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth (alternatively, use an immersion blender, but I did not think my immersion blender would stand up to the rather big pieces of ancho in my syrup). Press through a sieve (reserve solids for a boozy or vinegary infusion: see Options). At this point, you can store the syrup refrigerated for about 1 month, or fill hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields about 2 cups syrup.

OPTIONS

  1. Heidi’s recipe used guajillo chiles. The original Gourmet recipe used pasilla chiles. I’m sure that whatever chile you love and/or have on hand will work fine. Adjust the amount based on the spiciness of the chile and how hot you want the syrup to be.
  2. My preference is for the larger amount (8 oz) of blackberries; it allows the blackberry flavor to really come through.
  3. The ancho syrup is thick, smoky, almost a sauce. The spicy red chile syrup I left a bit thinner and has a clearer blackberry flavor and a hotter bite. You can control how thick or thin you’d like the syrup in the cooking down stage, remembering that it will thicken on cooling.
  4. The remaining blackberry pulp, chile skins and seeds left in the strainer went into 1) a pint of vodka and 2) a pint of white vinegar. I think bourbon, brandy or cider vinegar are all good candidates for a spicy berry infusion. I ran out of both vodka and white vinegar (the horror!) but I think there are easily enough solids leftover to infusion a bottle of vodka, or a quart of vinegar.

STORE

Refrigerated, about 1 month. Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Summer, or year-round with frozen berries.

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