If you do, you're probably like me, trying to bathe in the delicate aroma of the blossoms, as often as possible for as long as possible. Of the many spring flowers, Lilacs are by far my favourite; yet the short time the flowers are in bloom always leaves me yearning for more.
As a child, I'd wake up to the sweet smell of the Lilac trees in my grandmother's garden; their scent wafting on the sun-warmed, late spring breeze.
I remember standing on tiptoes, straining to reach the lower branches so I could pull them down and bury my face in the profusion of light-purple blossoms; the smell of Lilac nectar so strong I could almost drink it. And there were times I tried; plucking a tiny blossom, putting the narrow end in my mouth and sucking the sweetness through the straw-like terminus of the floret. More than a half-century later, I can still taste the Lilac nectar as vividly as I did in the days of my childhood, and the memories are still as sweet today.
ith age, however, comes the realisation that there are many ways to preserve the scent and flavour of those beautiful purple blooms throughout the year in the recipes I've found.
I'd like to stress here that any flowers used in the preparation of foods need to come from plants that are at the least free of pesticides, or at best, organically grown. I always lightly shake my lilacs to discourage any little bugs (and to leave them outside where they belong), then fill my sink with cold water and immerse the blooms in the water for just a minute or two. I place them in a strainer or colander to drip for a few minutes, then gently pat them dry with paper towels. This is less important when making the syrup than with the Lilac Sugar or any infusions. Water in a vinegar infusion will dilute the acidity, and if you're infusing the blossoms in oils, it can cause mould to form, turning your infusion into a nasty sludge.
Introducing any further moisture into your Lilac Sugar will turn it into a doorstop - it will be pretty, but inedible.
And let's face it: no one wants their vodka diluted!
There are so many more recipes available; I selected these three just to get started.
Beginning with the simplest first:
Sprig of Lilacs
Jar with a tight-fitting lid (Kilner, Ball, or Mason Jar)
Tap or shake the sprig of Lilacs to ensure all bugs fall out.
Rinse gently under a cold tap, then pat dry with paper towels. Be as gentle as you can, so as not to bruise the blossoms.
Separate each individual blossom from the sprig, placing in a bowl or on a paper towel until you're ready to use them. When finished, place a layer in the bottom of the jar you're using, then cover completely with sugar.
Add another layer of blossoms, then another layer of sugar.
Continue alternating until you've used all the sugar and blossoms.
Place lid on jar, ensuring it's tight.
Place the closed jar in a dark, cool and dry place.
Every day gently shake the jar to mix the sugar and petals. This keeps the sugar from getting hard as a result of the moisture in the flowers and prevents mould from forming.
The sugar can take a week, possibly more to dry; but after the sugar is dry, sift it using a mesh strainer to separate the dried Lilac petals from the flavoured sugar. Sprinkle the sugar on cookies, or use in tea. Place the petals in a clean jar to be incorporated into baked goods, used in teas, or as a garnish.
Simple syrup is just that: a very simple syrup made of sugar and water. There really isn't anything more to it than that, and the short amount of time it takes to cook it. Once you've learned to make a Simple Syrup, the sky's the limit as to what you can use it for or what you can flavour it with.
If you choose to flavour it, all you have to do is add the component flavour you want to create; for example, adding Lilac petals to the syrup as it cooks is all it takes to make it 'Lilac Simple Syrup'.
As with any syrup, adding lemon juice/lemon slices or citric acid preserves the syrup.
Lilac Syrup can be used in cocktails or 'virgin' drinks (pour Lilac Syrup over ice and top up with Club Soda), over ice cream - or even IN ice cream! Your imagination is your only limitation!
Lilac Syrup Recipe
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
4 cups fresh Lilac florets washed and separated from leaves and woody parts of the plant
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan on the stove, stirring constantly until all sugar is dissolved. Bring to a slow boil, and add Lilac florets; stir gently and cover.
Reduce heat; simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, and allow to cool and rest. This process allows the blossoms to infuse their scent and flavour into the syrup. Taste test often, because you want to achieve a syrup that tastes perfectly balanced, not too overpowering when used by itself, and that will blend well when mixed with other liquids.
Strain through fine cheesecloth set inside a fine mesh strainer. This will ensure all small bits of the blossoms will be separated from the liquid, giving your syrup a more professional, 'finished' appearance.
Don't worry if the syrup appears brown in the bottle; once it's mixed with liquids (i.e., for cocktails or spritzers), it turns a lovely purple hue.
Decant syrup into sterilised bottles with tight lids. Use a pretty label, and make sure you put the date (month and year) on it.
1 Cup White Wine Vinegar
2 cups Lilac blossoms, separated from branches and leaves *remove all green/woody parts to avoid vinegar turning grey
Mix Lilacs and Vinegar in a sterilised jar with a tight lid. Place in refrigerator overnight.
In 24 hours, strain Lilacs from vinegar using cheesecloth lined fine-meshed strainer.
At this point, you can choose to either bottle the vinegar, or add fresh Lilac florets to infuse for another 24 hours. This will deepen the colour as well a sweeten the vinegar. The longer you continue to strain and add fresh flowers, the sweeter the vinegar will be, and the deeper the colour will become. The vinegar will still be tangy, but will have a lovely, soft floral taste to it.
Decant into sterilised bottle. Store for no more than 3 months in refrigerator, or freeze in ice cube trays to use during the winter.
Other ideas would be to dry the Lilacs, storing them in a cool dark place to add to scones, cookies and breads during the year; infusing them in grapeseed oil, or vodka, or creating a hydrosol with them. Jams and jellies are another use, while candy is yet another. Make use of the Lilacs while they bloom!
#lilac #lilacsugar #memoriesofchildhood #lilacsyrup #lilacs #springflowers #springinabottle #lilacjoy
Marisa Ward is the founder/CEO of White Light Enterprises UK, Reiki Master and Teacher, and professional Psychic/Intuitive Reader.