Intro: Spruce Tip Sugar
There is no green more viridescent than the vibrant color that radiates from the new growth of Spring plants. I can't help but feel jubilant as I take my dog for a walk and notice the tender baby leaves, shoots, and growths on plants that had been suppressed under a harsh Winter. They create a refreshing atmosphere, and I can instantly feel the seasonal depression lifting off my shoulders.
In the Spring, Spruce trees and various coniferous species grow light green colored ends. Try to catch them at their early stages of growth before they grow too bitter and resinous. Keep in mind that when you pick the tips, the tree's growth will be stunted in that area, so never pick from the top of a young tree. These tips are packed chock full of vitamin C, and a completely unique taste: lemony, herbal, and with a woodsy taste reminiscent of the forest.
There are many ways to eat Spruce, like making syrups, cookies, pesto, or tea. I find that infusing them into sugar is a great way to preserve this unique flavor into a usable form. I use this sugar over pancakes, cupcakes, and for rimming glasses of cocktails with appropriate flavor profiles.
Step 1: Pick and Clean
If you've never worked with Spruce tips before, go ahead and eat one as it is just to see if you like the taste, before you pick. These are an excellent trail snack btw!
Pick as many spruce tips as you want to make sugar from, being careful not to pick too many from one tree. I picked a small handful, or about 1/2 a cup.
If they're really young, you'll notice some brown paper casings (third picture courtesy of http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com/) but these are harmless, so just remove them as best as you can.
There's really no need to wash the tips as they are fresh growth and completely clean, but feel free to give them a quick rinse.
Step 2: Give Me Some Sugar
Now the reason I didn't give a specific measurement for the amount of spruce tips is because it doesn't matter how many spruce tips you have, as long as you pulse it with sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
I used about 1/2 cup spruce tips to 1/2 cup white granulated sugar, then I pulsed it in a magic bullet until you get a relatively uniform and sandy mixture. (This will be a bit wet)
Spread the sugar on a baking tray, and leave it to dry at least overnight.
Step 3: Pulse Again and Sift
Once the sugar has dried, you'll want to either smash it into smaller pieces or pulse it again like I did.
I noticed that pulsing the dried sugar created a lot of dust and the product ended up being a more powdery sugar. I sifted large pieces of sediment out.
Store the remaining sugar somewhere cool and dry indefinitely.