Blueberries, to me, represent the ultimate comfort. I’m not entirely sure why, as the process of collecting the berries before the birds get to them isn’t so pleasant. The house where I lived while finishing my undergraduate degree had mature fruit growing in the backyard; a pear tree loomed over the neighbourhood, allowing two broad fig trees to grow in its shade, but my favourite of all was hidden behind the toolshed. I’m not sure whether it was an accident that the blueberry bush was planted between the chain-link fence and the shed, or whether either was added without much thought after the fact. All I know is that I would squeeze myself between the two structures to get to the plump fruit, ducking under branches, avoiding the bees that guarded the area, and referring to my great producer as a “blueberry tree”. It’s very hard to find blueberries here in Northern Ireland. I fully expect to return with my arms full of blueberry syrup after my next trip back to the States. The blueberry soda is light and refreshing enough that I don’t even remember the mosquito whelps and sun blisters I encountered while slaving away in such a tight space. What reality?
20 ounces whole blueberries
2 cups water
7 ounces sugar (vanilla sugar makes a nice touch if you have it)
the juice of 1 lime
8 fluid ounces carbonated water/seltzer water for each glass
bowl in which the colander can sit suspended by the edges
glass jar with lid or other canning/heatproof storage vessel
Place blueberries in the saucepan with water. Place on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Line the colander with the cheesecloth and suspend in the bowl. Drain the berries/water through the cheesecloth and colander. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to cool.
Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and use your hands to squeeze out as much of the blueberry juice as possible. This is the good stuff.
Return the juice to the saucepan and add the sugar and lime juice. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, allow the mixture to boil for two minutes before pouring it into the glass jar. Let it cool completely before lidding.
Store the blueberry syrup in the refrigerator and make sure to close the lid tightly after each use.
For the soda, combine 1/4 cup of the syrup with 8 fluid ounces of carbonated water. Add some ice and maybe a slice of lime — dress it up however you like.