Milka’s Fir Tip Wellness Syrup
This syrup is a rendition of one that was made annually by my Baka (grandmother in Serbo-Croatian) Milka. Conifers send the bright green tips out in the spring as a sign of new growth. These tips are very high in Vitamin C and are known to help ease respiratory ailments, coughs and colds. I have such vivid memories of Baka and my aunts at my Aunt Andjela’s farm in Quebec gathering spring fir tips from a huge, majestic fir tree my aunt had named “Mihailo.” They mixed the harvest of fir tips with brown sugar, lemons and water and boiled them down into thick syrup. They would make this syrup by the gallon and distribute to family and friends. It became part of my daily ritual as a child to take a spoonful of this wellness syrup daily or more when we got sick. It tasted fresh like the forest, coated my throat and soothed my cough. My syrup is an ode to Baka’s syrup, but is a quicker version made with honey instead of sugar. I like to take this invigorating wellness syrup daily as a preventative and it makes me think of Baka. It tastes green and coniferous and feels like an embodiment of new life. This recipe works for fir and spruce tips and can also be made year round from pine, spruce or fir needles (see Note).
Yield: 2.5 cups
1 cup (20 g) fresh fir or spruce tips
1.5 cups (360 ml) water
1 cup (340 g) raw honey
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
Respectfully harvest fresh fir or spruce tips. Rinse gently and let them air dry. In a small pot, combine tips and water. Bring to a boil and then turn off heat. Cover with lid and let the mixture infuse for at least eight hours or overnight. With a fine mesh strainer, strain tips from infused water. Combine infused water and honey in a spouted measuring cup. Add lemon juice. Stir well until honey and liquid combine. Pour into a glass jar with lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Take 1 to 2 teaspoons of syrup daily or more frequently to help with cough, cold or respiratory ailment. You can also mix syrup as desired into hot water to make tea. It is also delicious mixed into seltzer or cocktails.
This recipe can also be made year round from fir needles, spruce needles or pine needles, not just tips. The flavor will be more resinous and “piney,” but still delicious and medicinal. For needles instead of tips, I recommend infusing for an hour instead of overnight as the taste is much stronger.