Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The last of the lilacs

Each year, my street comes alive with lilacs. White and mauve, these beautiful blooms scent the air with a sweet smell so perfumed it feels almost fake. But a few short weeks later and the delicate flowers begin to brown, leaving behind a rather plain, dull green tree.

I couldn't get the lilacs out of my mind this year and put out a plea on Facebook, asking whether anyone knew of any lilacs still in bloom nearby. A sweet friend answered my call for help, directing me to his parents' magnificent home in a village just outside Bristol. (Lovely Little Green Lou came with me, and has written more about the beautiful house and garden here.)

And so, on a sunny almost-midsummer's day, we cut the last lilacs in England. Back home, I bottled the essence of lilac to last me until they make their rare appearance again next year.

Lilac sugar:
Use this to make fragrant cakes, puddings, or even to add sweetness to a floral iced tea.

Layer lilacs with granulated sugar in a large lidded jar. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for a week, shaking every so often. Sieve the blooms out and you're left with lilac sugar.

Lilac syrup:
Use this to make a floral kir (just add to sparkling wine), instead of icing for a lilac drizzle cake, or as a topping for yoghurt or ice cream.

Measure out your lilacs, and then measure the same volume of water and of sugar. Heat the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Tip in the lilac flowers and simmer on the lowest heat possible for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave for another 5 minutes. Sieve out the flowers, and pour your lilac syrup into a sterilised bottle. Store in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or in a plastic container in the freezer for longer.

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