Christina Sanchez Reveals Her Secrets:
3 Delicious Piñon Pine Syrup Recipes
I am sharing some of my favorite ways of working with one of my favorite native conifers, Pinus monophylla commonly known as Piñon Pine, an evergreen that is native to the Mojave Desert where I call home.
I work with Piñon in many ways from culinary to botanical medicinal remedies. Exploring various ways of making Piñon syrups using the fruit or pine cones, adding shavings of the hardened resin, infusing honey with cones or needles. As a botanical medicine, I turn to Piñon for when there is dampness in the respiratory system with phlegm and/or the early stages of bronchitis. The needles alone make for a pleasant tea, but are mildly diuretic and expectorating.
I work with all parts of the tree as botanical medicine. From needles, twigs, bark gathered from a recently fallen branch, resin from the forest floor to the fruit of the tree. I especially love making oils with the resin and using it as topical rub for stimulating blood flow and bringing warmth to an area where there are muscular aches, stiffness, joint pain, or arthritis. The warming nature of Piñon brings relief to aches and pains triggered by cold and damp weather. I also love using a salve or just the oil of Piñon resin for healing minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.
For the first syrup recipe you can choose your sweetener. When I first began to make the syrup, I was using organic brown sugar. Then I used honey, and now I am experimenting with other ways of using vegetable glycerine aside of making glycerites. Vegetable glycerine does not raise blood glucose levels, does not contain sugar, carbohydrates or starch, so it seems like a good alternative for syrups.
I gather unripe Piñon Pine cones for this first recipe, just enough to fill a couple of wide mouth mason jars. Not every stand of Piñon fruit every year, so I feel very fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time. After not finding the fruit some years, I began making syrup with the needles. It is not the same as using the fruit of the tree, but it is still a lovely syrup exuding the essence of Piñon.
Piñon Pine Cone Syrup Recipe
- 1-quart size wide mouth glass jar with lid
- 1 large brown paper bag
- Wooden spoon with a long handle or a chop stick
- Pen, Paper, Tape
- 8 to 12 small to medium size Piñon cones (unripe)
- 1-pound Brown Sugar or your sweetener of choice (Monk Fruit, Honey, Vegetable Glycerine)
Layer the pine cones and sweetener of choice i.e. pine cones, brown sugar, pine cones, brown sugar, pine cones, brown sugar. Leaving enough space to top off with your sweetener. In between each layer of pine cones and sweetener stir using the handle of the wooden spoon or the chop stick. Seal shut, label and date the Piñon Pine Cone Syrup. Place the jar in a sunny window covering the jar with a paper bag for four weeks. Agitating every day for the first two weeks after the first two weeks agitating the jar every other day.
I have tried both methods of using solar and hot water bath methods. I like using hot water baths because it is a quicker process. I know some folks live where they do not get enough sun or it is not warm enough, so for this the hot water bath would be ideal or it may take longer than four weeks if processing in a sunny window.
I live in the Mojave Desert, so things heat up fast here and within a couple of weeks the brown sugar breaks down into a syrup and by the fourth week the unripe cones have slowly opened up to release their seeds also known as pine nuts. Decant and store in a cool dark place (label and date).
If you are not using brown sugar and using a solvent like Monk Fruit sweetener this will also break down into a syrup. If using honey, the honey will become more runny and not so thick. I have yet to try vegetable glycerine as a solvent for this recipe.
If you do not have Piñon Pine Cones but you have Pine needles the recipe below is for the needles. For this recipe using honey, monk fruit syrup or vegetable glycerine is best. Brown Sugar does not break down into a syrup the same way that it does with the pine cones.
Piñon Pine Needle Syrup Recipe
- 2 cups of dried or 4 cups fresh Piñon Pine needles
- 4 cups filtered or distilled water
- 2 cups of honey or your sweetener of choice
- 1 medium size sauce pan with lid
- Medium size fine mesh sieve, unbleached cheesecloth or dye-free large muslin or nut milk bag
- 1 medium size bowl
- Wooden large spoon
Clean and chop up needles into smaller pieces adding the stems if you have them and cutting those up with clippers into smaller sections. Add needles to saucepan fill with water, cover and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while simmering. After 30 minutes turn heat off and let steep for an hour.
When it comes time to strain, take the fine-mesh sieve and double line with the cheesecloth. Now squeezing all of the liquid out of the needles can be a little pokey so use the large wooden spoon to press the remaining liquid out of the needles. Compost the needles or return to the earth if you do not have a compost.
Add the liquid (strong tea) back into pan and turn on low, stirring in the honey or sweetener. If children under the age of one will be taking this then use another preservative like vegetable glycerine, maple syrup, monk fruit syrup to name a few. Dissolve and allow to cool followed with bottling. Don’t forget to label and date. I don’t use sugar in my syrups, but you can.
For a longer shelf life and the proper ratio for it to be shelf-stable, the ratio is 1:1, 1 part tea to 1 part honey. You can cut it back some and add 2 parts tea to 1 part honey or 3 parts tea to 1 part honey. I keep mine in the fridge.
Piñon Pine Needle Honey Recipe
- Handful of fresh or dry needles
- 8-ounce local organic honey
- 8-ounce glass jar with matching lid
- Unbleached cheesecloth
- Fine mesh sieve
- Brown bag
Chop and clean pine needles, layer honey and pine needles topping off with honey, label and date. Place in the brown paper bag and sit in a sunny window. Allow to sit for four weeks. After four weeks, strain by lining the mesh sieve with a cheesecloth (doubled). Press all of the honey using a large wooden spoon. Don’t forget to label and date.
Suggested Use for Piñon Pine Syrups and Honey
The syrups go well with dressing desserts like frozen yogurt or ice cream, plain yogurt with muesli, brownies, coffee cakes. I make a Piñon Cake and drizzle the syrup on the cake. It is a tasty and nutritious spread for toast or rice cakes. For more information on Piñon Pine cooking, listen as Christina talks about her secret syrup recipe in the Real Herbalism Radio podcast
About the Author
Christina Sanchez is an herbalist and licensed cosmetologist who lives in Joshua Tree, California. She is the founder of the herbal product company, Every Leaf Speaks which focuses on ethically wild-crafted and sourced herbal remedies with a specific focus on the native plants of the Mojave Desert. She also leads Desert Plant ID Hikes and Workshops. She operates Christina Sanchez Hair Design and is a high desert environmental activist.