Friday, June 10, 2011

Candied Lilac

A special report from Button Soup's Senior Backyard Correspondent, Lisa Zieminek

With Allan in Austria, I have been tasked with keeping him informed of what’s happening in our new yard, and documenting developments with copious photographs and notes.

A couple weeks ago, the several lilac trees scattered throughout our yard burst into full bloom, filling the air with sweet perfume.

Last year we learned that lilacs are edible.  The tiny flowers can be added to salads for a splash of color.  They can also be made into beautiful, delicate candies that last long after the blossoms have fallen from the trees and their sweet smell has left the air.  Rather than keeping the memories of spring with mere photographs, I decided to preserve a little piece of the season in candy form, to be enjoyed upon Allan’s return.

Candied Lilac

  • simple syrup (heat 2 parts sugar and 1 part water to 225°F, then cool to room temperature)
  • individual lilac flowers, stems removed
  • ultrafine sugar (sold as “berry sugar”)
  • patience – it's a tedious job

Using tweezers, dip the lilac flowers in the simple syrup, shake off any excess liquid, then place them onto the ultrafine sugar.  Turn the flowers in the sugar to coat all sides, or sprinkle them with sugar to achieve the same effect.  Let the flowers dry overnight, then store in an airtight container.

The candied petals look like delicate crystals – they are a beautiful garnish for cupcakes or ice cream.  They have a crunchy texture and a sweet, floral taste.  (They are flowers, after all...)

-Lisa Zieminek, Sr. Backyard Correspondent

Evergreen Syrup

A nifty trick I picked up at Looshaus, a hotel and restaurant in Kreuzberg, Lower Austria.

Pick evergreen "buds" (the small bundles of new needles that appear in late spring), simmer them in simple syrup (1:1 water to sugar), and transfer the whole mess into glass jars.  The syrup takes on a fantastic, minty, pine flavour, which the Looshaus chef says gets even better with a few months storage.  Strain the needles out before using the syrup.

Some ideas for usage:
  • sauces for game meats (think: evergreen gastrique)
  • ice cream
  • in sparkling water (beer flavoured with young spruce needles was once common in Canada...) 
  • pork brines
The same process can be used for other common backyard plants, like dandelion and elderberry.