Those of you that follow me on Instagram have probably noticed that I'm a bit obsessed with lilacs at the moment. To me, lilacs not only announce the arrival of spring with a big burst of color and scent, but also mean that it's time to try fun things with them around the kitchen!
I had never made anything from or even tasted something made of lilacs before trying the recipes below, but the more I saw them blooming around our town, the more I felt inspired to try to figure out a way to make the lovely scent last just a little longer. I started doing some research and found out that much like roses, lilacs are indeed edible and you can do just about anything with them.
Before I get to the fun recipes, I wanted to talk a bit about keeping cut lilacs fresh in a vase. Lilac wood is apparently one of the hardest woods found (it has even been used to make flutes and pipes), so there is a trick to extending their life once you've cut the blossoms from the bush. Once cut, use a sharp knife to strip 1 or 2 inches of the bark from the bottom of the stem and pound that end with something hard to open up the dense structure of the wood. Doing this makes sure the lilac can drink up water, and it will help the flowers stay fresh once cut for 2-3 weeks!
Now onto the recipes. There are so many different things you can do with lilac blossoms it's crazy. You can infuse honey or witch hazel, or make wine or ice cream out of them just to name a few things. While I'd love to experiment with all of these things (and probably eventually will), I decided to just try my hand at a couple of recipes to see what it was like to work with flowers since I had never done anything like this before.
Everything I read said you could cook with any of the different colors of lilac. I decided to go with a deep-purple variety because the smell was intoxicatingly good every time I walked by the bush. The flowers of this particular bush were also quite large, so I figured that would be good for capturing the nectar.
First up is a lilac infused simple syrup. This recipe is really easy and I think was a perfect introduction to cooking with flowers. I was especially interested in trying this recipe because it reminded me of drinking sparkling water with flavored syrup on a terrace in Paris on a sunny day.
When preparing your lilac flowers for cooking, you'll want to remove as much of the stem as possible making sure to leave the individual flowers completely intact because the nectar of the flower is right at the base where the flower connects to the stem. The stem can apparently be pretty bitter, so when I was making these recipes, I removed all of the big stem and left the flowers attached to the smaller stem and the recipes still turned out fine.
Lilac Infused Simple Syrup
1/2 cup of lilac flowers, tightly packed
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring well to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Cover and let steep until cool. Once the mixture is cool, pour through a fine-meshed strainer, making sure to squeeze the flowers with a fork to get out all of the liquid.
This keeps well for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, and longer in the freezer. There are many uses for simple syrup, but one would be to pour a dash of simple syrup in the bottom of a glass and fill the rest of the way with sparkling water.
The color is sort-of a deep-purple (which my phone camera wouldn't capture), and it tastes sweet and almost berry-like. I'm excited to try this in different cocktails too!
Lilac infused simple syrup
While the simple syrup color was hard to capture, the next recipe I tried was lilac jelly which is the most beautiful, deep pink color I could imagine:
Vibrant lilac jelly
I'll be back next week to bring you the recipe for this lilac jelly along with a confession about home economics blunders so stay tuned!