Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lilac Simple Syrup

Where I live, lilacs are blooming everywhere, which reminds me of living in Oregon -- the first place I lived with a noticeable number of lilacs. There are a variety of lilacs available -- and the area around me has a lot of them. Lilacs (Syringa spp.) are part of the olive family, and are native to the Balkan peninsula. Lilacs came to the American colonies in the 1700s, and when white Americans and immigrants moved west, in the 1800s, they brought lilacs with them -- and I can't say I blame them. These plants have showy flowers, which grow in panicles, and give off a light floral scent. The shrub itself will eventually grow a clonal thicket, if left to grow without human intervention.

Lilac flowers are edible, and taste pretty much like they smell (with a light bitter end, that'll probably seem familiar if you've tried other edible flowers), at least if you make them into a simple syrup. The flavor of each plant can vary, so you may want to try a flowers from a few different plants, if you have that option.

Lilac syrup actual turns out a lovely light pink, if you don't do anything to modify it. When I was looking into making lilac syrup, I saw a number of people suggesting that you make the syrup with a couple of blueberries to enhance the color -- and since blueberries are also delicious, and I happened to have some on hand, I figured why not?

The process is straight forward, and fairly fast, at least for active cooking time. I let my flowers steep in the warm sugar water for a while, which heightened the color of the syrup. The most time consuming part is removing the flowers from the stem. Ideally, you'll remove all the green parts, because those impart some bitter flavor to your finished product.

Generally simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, but I opted to increase the water a bit for a thinner syrup -- and because I knew that I was going to let the flowers infuse for a while, and I live in dry climate.

Lilac Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3-5 blueberries (optional)
2 cups lilac blossoms (I used a variety of color blossoms)
1/4 teaspoon citric acid OR juice from 1/2 a lemon

Remove the lilac blossoms from the stem, doing your best to remove all of the green parts.

In a saucepan, over high heat, combine the water and sugar, and bring to a boil. When all of the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat and add the blueberries (if using) and lilac blossoms. Let simmer for 8 minutes, then remove from heat, stir in citric acid or lemon juice (to help preserve your syrup), cover and let cool for 12 hours.

Use a sieve to strain the blossoms from the syrup, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.