Mugolio: Pinecone Syrup You Can Put on Everything

Mugolio: Pinecone Syrup You Can Put on Everything

  • Prep time

    5 minutes

  • Cook time

    -

  • Course

    Preserves

  • Skill level

    Intermediate

  • Season

    Spring, Summer

  • Serves

    2 cups
Chef’s notes

Mugolio is my favorite party trick. It turns a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream into a primeval forest treat, a well-liquor drink into a top-shelf cocktail, or a humble chevre into a Michelin-star cheese course, and all for the cost of a few cups of sugar. It’s a rags-to-riches story that’s within everyone’s reach, as long as they have access to a conifer tree.

Traditionally, in Italy, mugolio is made exclusively with the pinky-nail-sized young cones of mugo pine, but exclusivity is kind of stale, no? Why stop at mugo, and why even stop at pine? Thanks to the experimental spirit of mugolio-loving foragers, we’ve come to learn that this syrup-making technique can be used with the young cones of any of our native conifers for an array of foresty flavors. I've used white pine, red pine, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, Norway spruce, and red spruce and gotten a whole suite of equally sultry but subtly nuanced syrups.

Collect your cones in spring and summer when they’re green, tender, and still on the tree. We’re not talking about the brown, woody cones that have fallen to the ground. The cones of some species grow on the ends of limbs from the top to the bottom of the tree, making them easy to reach, but some species only grow their cones at the very tops of the tree, making them nearly impossible to reach. For these I have three suggestions:

1: Go in after a logging operation and often they’ll have left the tops on the ground. This is a jackpot. 2: Go check stands of conifers after a windstorm and you’re likely to find at least some upper limbs, if not whole trees blown down. 3: Pray for lightning. The only time I’ve ever gotten balsam fir cones was from a lucky lightning strike that hit the tree instead of me. Not likely to happen again, but it can’t hurt to hope.

If none of these things pan out and you can’t find any cones within reach, luckily we’ve found that you can make the syrup with young evergreen tips instead of cones. Tips are much easier to access, and I’ve found the flavors of the syrups to be just as interesting. The tips can even be used when they’re a little past the tender stage that you’d want them for, say, pickling. As long as they’re still a lighter green than the mature needles and haven’t completely hardened up you can use them, just use the juiciest ones you can find.

new pinecones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups young pines cones or evergreen tips, broken, torn, or chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, preferably brown, turbinado, or maple

Also works with

Young pine cones or evergreen tips

Preparation

  1. Mix the cones and sugar in a bowl until evenly combined.
  2. Pack the mixture into a quart jar, label, and put the lid on, loosely.
  3. Put the jar on a cool, dark shelf.
  4. Check on the jar every few days. You’ll see syrup forming in the first few days, and then some fermentation bubbling, depending on the water content of your cones. You’ll want to stir, shake, or pack the solids down periodically to make sure everything is well incorporated. As time goes on, make sure the solids stay below the liquid level. If the solids are above the syrup level for too long, you may get mold. I check my jars every few days in the beginning, and then after the first month, about once a week.
  5. After two months, taste test! If you love it, it’s done, but it’s fine to let it age longer too.
  6. If you’re happy with the flavor, pour everything into a pot, bring to a gentle boil, being careful not to scald, and pour, while hot, through a strainer, into sanitaized jars or bottles.
  7. Cap your jars or bottles, and turn upside-down, while hot, for 20 minutes. At this point your syrup is shelf stable, but you can water bath process your jars for 10 minutes for extra insurance if you like.
  8. I highly recommend scaling this recipe up and making a big batch, even if you’ve never had it before. I’ve found that the more I make, the more ways I find to use it and love it, and even though we make it in late spring, it’s the perfect holiday season gift for friends and family. It adds a deep-woods note to cheeses, custards, meat glazes, fruits, salads, and beverages all year round.

mugolio

Chef’s notes

Mugolio is my favorite party trick. It turns a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream into a primeval forest treat, a well-liquor drink into a top-shelf cocktail, or a humble chevre into a Michelin-star cheese course, and all for the cost of a few cups of sugar. It’s a rags-to-riches story that’s within everyone’s reach, as long as they have access to a conifer tree.

Traditionally, in Italy, mugolio is made exclusively with the pinky-nail-sized young cones of mugo pine, but exclusivity is kind of stale, no? Why stop at mugo, and why even stop at pine? Thanks to the experimental spirit of mugolio-loving foragers, we’ve come to learn that this syrup-making technique can be used with the young cones of any of our native conifers for an array of foresty flavors. I've used white pine, red pine, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, Norway spruce, and red spruce and gotten a whole suite of equally sultry but subtly nuanced syrups.

Collect your cones in spring and summer when they’re green, tender, and still on the tree. We’re not talking about the brown, woody cones that have fallen to the ground. The cones of some species grow on the ends of limbs from the top to the bottom of the tree, making them easy to reach, but some species only grow their cones at the very tops of the tree, making them nearly impossible to reach. For these I have three suggestions:

1: Go in after a logging operation and often they’ll have left the tops on the ground. This is a jackpot. 2: Go check stands of conifers after a windstorm and you’re likely to find at least some upper limbs, if not whole trees blown down. 3: Pray for lightning. The only time I’ve ever gotten balsam fir cones was from a lucky lightning strike that hit the tree instead of me. Not likely to happen again, but it can’t hurt to hope.

If none of these things pan out and you can’t find any cones within reach, luckily we’ve found that you can make the syrup with young evergreen tips instead of cones. Tips are much easier to access, and I’ve found the flavors of the syrups to be just as interesting. The tips can even be used when they’re a little past the tender stage that you’d want them for, say, pickling. As long as they’re still a lighter green than the mature needles and haven’t completely hardened up you can use them, just use the juiciest ones you can find.

new pinecones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups young pines cones or evergreen tips, broken, torn, or chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, preferably brown, turbinado, or maple

Also works with

Young pine cones or evergreen tips

Preparation

  1. Mix the cones and sugar in a bowl until evenly combined.
  2. Pack the mixture into a quart jar, label, and put the lid on, loosely.
  3. Put the jar on a cool, dark shelf.
  4. Check on the jar every few days. You’ll see syrup forming in the first few days, and then some fermentation bubbling, depending on the water content of your cones. You’ll want to stir, shake, or pack the solids down periodically to make sure everything is well incorporated. As time goes on, make sure the solids stay below the liquid level. If the solids are above the syrup level for too long, you may get mold. I check my jars every few days in the beginning, and then after the first month, about once a week.
  5. After two months, taste test! If you love it, it’s done, but it’s fine to let it age longer too.
  6. If you’re happy with the flavor, pour everything into a pot, bring to a gentle boil, being careful not to scald, and pour, while hot, through a strainer, into sanitaized jars or bottles.
  7. Cap your jars or bottles, and turn upside-down, while hot, for 20 minutes. At this point your syrup is shelf stable, but you can water bath process your jars for 10 minutes for extra insurance if you like.
  8. I highly recommend scaling this recipe up and making a big batch, even if you’ve never had it before. I’ve found that the more I make, the more ways I find to use it and love it, and even though we make it in late spring, it’s the perfect holiday season gift for friends and family. It adds a deep-woods note to cheeses, custards, meat glazes, fruits, salads, and beverages all year round.

mugolio

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Save this recipe

Mugolio: Pinecone Syrup You Can Put on Everything

Recipe by: Jenna Rozelle
Mugolio: Pinecone Syrup You Can Put on Everything
  • Prep time

    5 minutes

  • Cook time

    -

  • Course

    Preserves

  • Skill level

    Intermediate

  • Season

    Spring, Summer

  • Serves

    2 cups
Chef’s notes

Mugolio is my favorite party trick. It turns a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream into a primeval forest treat, a well-liquor drink into a top-shelf cocktail, or a humble chevre into a Michelin-star cheese course, and all for the cost of a few cups of sugar. It’s a rags-to-riches story that’s within everyone’s reach, as long as they have access to a conifer tree.

Traditionally, in Italy, mugolio is made exclusively with the pinky-nail-sized young cones of mugo pine, but exclusivity is kind of stale, no? Why stop at mugo, and why even stop at pine? Thanks to the experimental spirit of mugolio-loving foragers, we’ve come to learn that this syrup-making technique can be used with the young cones of any of our native conifers for an array of foresty flavors. I've used white pine, red pine, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, Norway spruce, and red spruce and gotten a whole suite of equally sultry but subtly nuanced syrups.

Collect your cones in spring and summer when they’re green, tender, and still on the tree. We’re not talking about the brown, woody cones that have fallen to the ground. The cones of some species grow on the ends of limbs from the top to the bottom of the tree, making them easy to reach, but some species only grow their cones at the very tops of the tree, making them nearly impossible to reach. For these I have three suggestions:

1: Go in after a logging operation and often they’ll have left the tops on the ground. This is a jackpot. 2: Go check stands of conifers after a windstorm and you’re likely to find at least some upper limbs, if not whole trees blown down. 3: Pray for lightning. The only time I’ve ever gotten balsam fir cones was from a lucky lightning strike that hit the tree instead of me. Not likely to happen again, but it can’t hurt to hope.

If none of these things pan out and you can’t find any cones within reach, luckily we’ve found that you can make the syrup with young evergreen tips instead of cones. Tips are much easier to access, and I’ve found the flavors of the syrups to be just as interesting. The tips can even be used when they’re a little past the tender stage that you’d want them for, say, pickling. As long as they’re still a lighter green than the mature needles and haven’t completely hardened up you can use them, just use the juiciest ones you can find.

new pinecones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups young pines cones or evergreen tips, broken, torn, or chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, preferably brown, turbinado, or maple

Also works with

Young pine cones or evergreen tips

Preparation

  1. Mix the cones and sugar in a bowl until evenly combined.
  2. Pack the mixture into a quart jar, label, and put the lid on, loosely.
  3. Put the jar on a cool, dark shelf.
  4. Check on the jar every few days. You’ll see syrup forming in the first few days, and then some fermentation bubbling, depending on the water content of your cones. You’ll want to stir, shake, or pack the solids down periodically to make sure everything is well incorporated. As time goes on, make sure the solids stay below the liquid level. If the solids are above the syrup level for too long, you may get mold. I check my jars every few days in the beginning, and then after the first month, about once a week.
  5. After two months, taste test! If you love it, it’s done, but it’s fine to let it age longer too.
  6. If you’re happy with the flavor, pour everything into a pot, bring to a gentle boil, being careful not to scald, and pour, while hot, through a strainer, into sanitaized jars or bottles.
  7. Cap your jars or bottles, and turn upside-down, while hot, for 20 minutes. At this point your syrup is shelf stable, but you can water bath process your jars for 10 minutes for extra insurance if you like.
  8. I highly recommend scaling this recipe up and making a big batch, even if you’ve never had it before. I’ve found that the more I make, the more ways I find to use it and love it, and even though we make it in late spring, it’s the perfect holiday season gift for friends and family. It adds a deep-woods note to cheeses, custards, meat glazes, fruits, salads, and beverages all year round.

mugolio