Where I live in the more northerly-regions, the massive lilac bushes in my yard hit peak bloom this past week. Everything smells of lilacs. I cut armloads of blooms and filled the house with blossoms.
On every surface, a vase.
Lilac season is so short—the blooms open, flourish, close, and die in a matter of days, and they won’t flood the world with their color or fragrance for another year. So my fanaticism is totally justified. This year I decided to take things a step further, and devise some way to hang onto that amazing lilac essence just a bit longer.
As with violets, nasturtiums, lavender, and many other blooms, lilac blossoms are edible and their gorgeous color and fragrance lend a unique flavor to anything you bake them into. (Shortbread is my particular favorite).
This week I took it a step further and concocted a simple syrup. It’s versitle, keeps for quite some time, and looks absolutely lovely bottled. Sadly, the farmhouse lilacs (traditional blooms, large, light purple, unbiquitious to farmfields and in quiet rural neighborhoods) have finished blooming for this season. However, there are several varieties that bloom a bit later and you will still be able to find them this season (at least if you live in zone 2 in the US). These varities include the smaller, more vibrant Purple Dwarf lilacs and the white-bloomed French lilac. Both of these varities will also serve beautifually for this recipe.
LILAC SIMPLE SYRUP
4 cups water
4 cups granulated white sugar
4 cups tightly-packed flower blossoms, green parts and stems removed.
4-5 blueberries (for color)
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a light simmer until all the sugar has disolved. Add the flowers and berries and simmer for another 6-8 minutes until the blooms are wilted and the water is a soft purple-blue color, and fragrant.
• Note: The water will smell strong and floral but not particularly like lilacs due to its concentration. When the syrup is added to food the lilac essence will be obvious and unmistakeable.
Strain the syrup through cheese cloth until it is clear. Allow to cool, and then bottle. It can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks, or if canned, for months.
I use the syrup to flavor my coffee, and it is also lovely over ice cream, served with carbonated water (as a lilac soda), in all manner of baked goods, and in coctails!