Who doesn’t love the scent of lilac wafting through the morning Spring air. Lilacs have been prolific and long-lasting this year due to near perfect weather conditions. Cool mornings and warm afternoons, this year’s blooms have retained their beauty and intoxicating aroma well into the end of April.
Lilac, a member of the olive family is native to the Balkan peninsula but has followed the growth of civilization for thousands of years. It turns out, most early cultures have appreciated the fragrance and beauty of this popular perennial. They planted this shrub wherever they established homes and cities. So much so, that lilac grows wild throughout Europe and North America.
For me, lilac heralds the onset of Spring. But, each year I am disappointed as the days grow warmer and the blooms fade and die off. They leave behind a sturdy green leaf tree that will not bloom again until the following year. And as it turns out, lilacs only bloom profusively every other year. The in-between years produce only a small yield of blooms. Sigh…, now, I will have to wait two years to enjoy a repeat of this year’s stunning presentation.
So, armed with that sad news, this year, I decided to find another way to hold onto the essence of lilac. As you probably know me by now, it would somehow involve cooking.
Yes, you heard me correctly, it turns out that lilac is edible! My research turned up many recipes for lilac jelly. But, my attempts at lilac jelly has thus far been, a epic fail! Not saying I will not try again but somehow the aroma, the color and the essence of lilac was lost in the process.
So, back to the drawing board. This time success, lovely lilac scones! The hint of lilac added to some of last years mulberries was quite delicious, albiet slightly more purple than I anticipated .
Let me show a few things I learned about cooking with lilac.
Gather blooms and buds and remove all stems and leaves, rinse throughly. Place on paper towel to dry thoroughly. You will need at least 2 packed cups worth of blooms.
Mix dried blooms with 4 cups of granulated sugar, cover and let sit for at least 8-12 hours. Blooms need to be dry or sugar mixture will harden. Sift through metal strainer over bowl to remove blooms. You now have 4 cups of lilac sugar to use in your recipes.
When making lilac jelly or syrup. Pack 2 cups of cleaned and de-stemmed blooms into a clean mason jar and cover with boiling water. You will notice the color leach from the blooms immediately. Unfortunately, the strained liquid is not lavender or purple but rather a muddy brown. You will need to add purple food coloring (Mix blue and red) or another natural coloring.
Most jelly recipes require 2 cups of boiled liquid to sit over night. This the step with my epic fail.
After the initial 24 hours, the strained mixture grew a bit of mold on top which I immediately tossed. I would recommend using boiling water straight over blooms which means your mason jar should be boiled and hot as well so it will not crack. And, trust me the liquid has a bitter taste so make sure you have adequate sugar for you jelly recipes. I made another batch of lilac syrup, this time boiling down the liquid and reducing it over medium heat by half. I used the syrup in the later recipe for lilac scones.
Links to jelly recipe. http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/2013/06/26/old-fashioned-lilac-jelly/
I hope my next attempt is a better success. If you want the lilac color you will need to use food coloring or a natural alternative like hibiscus.
Next, I tried lilac scones as I was determined to use up the lilac sugar.
This time success! However, I substituted last years flash frozen mulberries for blueberries which really turned the whole scone purple. I’d like to say I did that for my K-State friends, but I did not! ROCK CHALK Jayhawks!
Whatever the color, the scone was delicious. just the perfect hint of lilac. I will definitely try this recipe again!
The most fun you can have in your home kitchen is expanding your culinary skills by trying new things. Ah.., I think I will go out and enjoy the hint of the last Spring lilacs.