Strange IndiaStrange India

I come from the land of congealed salads, a land of Cool Whip and canned fruit. While the original recipe for ambrosia called for fresh citrus and shaved coconut, its progeny lean heavily on the canned stuff, so I’ve always had a soft spot for peaches, pineapple, and cherries that come swimming in syrup.

Canned fruit is also helpful in the baking department. Most recipes that utilize it have you discard the liquid from the can, and I’ve always felt bad dumping it down the drain—particularly if it’s pretty, like the garnet-hued water you find in a can of sour cherries. Besides, that stuff makes a great syrup.

There are three types of liquid you’ll find in a can of fruit: Water (that takes on the color and flavor of the fruit), juice, and syrup. You may think the syrup doesn’t need any adjustments to be used as such, but you’d be wrong. The syrup in a can of fruit is rarely sweet enough to be mixed into cocktails, drizzled on ice cream, or brushed on cakes, and it just doesn’t have the right viscosity (or enough sugar, frankly).

Still, making a syrup out of canned fruit liquid is a little different than making a simple syrup out of plain water, which doesn’t contribute anything in the flavor department and is completely devoid of sweetness. Here’s how you do it.

Easy Canned Fruit Syrup (using the liquid from any can of fruit)


  • The liquid from a can of fruit (fruit strained out and used for something else)
  • Sugar

Pour the strained liquid into a measuring cup and note down the volume. Add the liquid to a small sauce pot. Measure out half the volume of the liquid in sugar. For example, if you have 1 cup of liquid, measure out 1/2 a cup of sugar. Add the sugar to the sauce pan and heat over medium heat until dissolved, then let reduce until the syrup is as thick as you desire.

Give it a taste. If it’s sweet and syrupy enough, stop there and let it cool. If it’s not sweet enough, add a little more sugar and continue to heat until dissolved, then re-taste. (For the water drained out of a can of sour cherries, I ended up using a ratio of 3 parts sugar for 4 parts liquid by volume.)

Once you’ve reached your desired viscosity and level of sweetness, let cool completely before decanting into a pretty bottle or jar. Stir the syrup into cocktails, seltzer, or full-blown sodas (DIY cherry Coke, anyone?), brush it onto cakes or other baked goods, or drizzle it over ice cream or pancakes. Syrup will keep in the fridge for about a month.

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