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edible lilacs

Every year around this time I start to get excited about my Lilacs!

Right now, they have buds and tiny leaves, but soon, usually around the beginning of May, they will produce beautiful clusters of lavender colored flowers.

Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they smell amazing AND give us some wonderful edible flowers to enjoy. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that lilacs are edible and can be used in so many different ways. 

Here are a few ways I like to use edible lilacs:

  1. Lilac wine
  2. Lilac syrup
  3. Lilac Tea
  4. Lilac jelly
  5. Lilac Sugar
  6. Candied Lilac Blossoms
  7. Lilac and Lemon Shortbread Cookies
There are also many more edible flowers that are popping up this time of year, or soon will be. If you have violets, dandelions,  or forsythia, then you’re lucky because all of these are edible and can be made into delicious treats that will both amaze and delight your company when served at a special gathering. 
 

Use these early spring flowers to whip up some violet honey or syrup, some sunshiny dandelion jelly, or a spring salad sprinkled with these colorful treats.

edible lilacs

1. Lilac Wine

I am passionate about resurecting the “old ways” of living that our grandparents likely enjoyed. One of these self-sufficient skills was making country wines.

This recipe makes you think of times past and of simple bouquets of early spring flowers on dining tables and country windowsills. 

In this recipe you’re bottling both the fragrance and taste of this delicious floral treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound raisins
  • 2-3 quarts fresh lilac flowers (all green parts removed)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 1/2 pounds sugar
  • 1 packet wine yeast (I use Montrachet)
  • 1 campden tablet

Directions:

  • Cover the raisins with water and soak overnight. 
  • Chop the raisins (with the water), in a blender.
  • Combine the raisin water and the lilac flowers in a fermentation container or bucket.
  • Bring the gallon of water to a boil, then add the sugar and return to a boil until sugar completely dissolved. 
  • Pour the boiling sugar water into the mixture in the fermentation tub
  • Cover the fermentation tub with a towel and let cool.
  • Once your mixture is cooled, gently stir in the yeast and cover. 
  • Stir twice daily for 7 to 10 days until fermentation slows.
  • Strain the pulp from the liquid using a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
  • Pour the strained liquid into a secondary fermentation vessel like a carboy and attach an airlock.
  • Place in a warm, dark location for one month.
  • Rack your wine using a siphon hose being careful not to transfer the sedement settled on the bottom. Do this once a month for the next 4-8 months.  Doing this will help to ensure a wine with nice clarity.
  • After the 4-8 months of racking, you can bottle your wine, but first crush a campden tablet and add to the vessel.  Let this sit for 24 hours to kill off any yeast and to stop the oxidation process. 

One gallon of wine fills approximately 5 – 750ml wine bottles or 10 – 12oz beer bottles. Using the siphon technique, fill all your bottles, and cap or cork them accordingly.  Store your bottles on their side in a cool dark room.  Your wine is now drinkable, but I would recommend waiting 6 months or more to really get the full flavor. I know it’s so hard to wait, but I promise, it’s totally worth it.

You might be also interested in this country rhubarb wine recipe, that’s so easy and delicious, or my post on making country wines – a basic 6 step method. 

The Outdoor Apothecary

2. Lilac Simple Syrup

I absolutely love making simple syrups, and this one made with edible lilacs is no different. Not only are they fantastic in cocktails, but they’re also a wonderful addition to other beverages.

Simple syrup is an essential ingredient in cocktails and other beverages because it blends so well with other liquids, and it’s super easy as well as cost effective to make yourself! 

Simply add equal amounts of sugar and water. You can use measuring cups or for more precise measurements, you can use a kitchen scale and combine the same weight of both ingredients (ex. 8 0z water and 8oz of sugar). 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of lilac florets (all green and stems removed)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water

Tip: This recipe can easily be doubled depending on how much you need.

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and boil until sugar is disolved. 

Gently add your prepared lilac florets, stir gently, and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

After simmering for 5 minutes, remove your pan from the heat and allow to cool with the cover on for 6 – 8 hours. During this time the floral essense of the lilac is being infused into the syrup in a most delicious and fragrant way. 

Strain your liquid into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer. Let the strainer rest on the bowl for a while to allow all the liquid to drip through…we don’t want to waste a drop!

Pour your strained syrup into a glass jar or syrup bottle and store in fridge for up to a month.

Tip: Don’t need it right away? Freeze it, then thaw when you need it.

edible lilacs

3. Lilac Tea

I love the soft floral notes in lilac tea and also like that I can dry lilac flowers for tea so that I can enjoy them all year through. 

Drying lilacs for later use is important since lilacs only bloom for a short period of time in the early spring. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy them long after they’ve passed. 

Method:

Hang small bunches of your edible lilacs upside down to dry.  After a week or two, they will be completely dry. At this point simply pull off the petals and store in an air-tight jar or tin.

To make tea, add a tablespoon or two to boiling water and steep as you would any loose herbal tea. Add a tiny bit of local honey, and you’re in for a treat that can’t be beat!

edible lilacs

4. Lilac Jelly

This delightful jelly with a delicate floral taste is the perfect accompaniment to a biscuit and cup of tea.  Canning lilac jelly is a great method for preserving this springtime flower for future enjoyment.

I especially like to enjoy this in the winter months when I need to remember that spring will be here before you know it.  Winters are looong in the Northeast!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed lilac blossoms (all green and stems removed)
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cups sugar
  • One box Sure-jell powdered pectin (1.75 oz, or 6 tablespoons Ball Real Fruit Classic Pectin

Directions:

  1. Separate all lilac blossoms from their stems. Note: your fingers will get very sticky! 
  2. Add the blossoms to a mason jar and pour the boiling water over the blossoms.  Cover, and let cool completely.
  3. Place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the lilac to fully infuse into the water. 
  4. Sterilize 4 half pint or 7 four-ounce jars for canning. I cheat and use my dishwasher.
  5. Strain the blossoms over a medium saucepan using a fine mesh strainer. 
  6. Add the lemon juice, and pectin to the lilac tea and stir to combine.
  7. Bring to a rolling boil and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve and bring back to a boil.
  8. Once at a hard boil, cook for one minute. Skim off any foam that has formed.
  9. Ladle the jelly into your prepared jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Boil in a hot water canner for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside to cool.

Preserved jelly can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year.

edible lilacs

5. Lilac Sugar

Lilac – the early spring smell that carries the promise of summer. Making lilac-infused sugar is one of the simplest recipes to make yourself at home and is the perfect way to capture the fragrance and preserve the floral essence of edible lilacs.  It’s like spring in a jar, for real! 

Ingredients needed: 

  • Lilac 
  • White Sugar 

The first step is to collect your lilac blossoms when they’re at their full bloom stage. I like to collect them after the morning sun has dried the dew off of them. As I collect them, I give them a gentle shake to rid them of any bugs. You don’t want to wash them, as you’ll not want to add any moisture to the sugar.  You’ll want the petals completely dry.   

Carefully remove individual blossoms from the stems. This is the hard part – plucking the individual flowers off the stem as your fingers will get sticky. Then layer the blossoms alternately with the sugar in a mason jar.  The size of the jar will depend on the amount of blossoms and sugar you wish to infuse. 

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pick dry blossoms (no stems or leaves) and do not wash them. Remove single flowers from the cluster and place in a bowl.
  2. Place a few tablespoons of sugar in the bottom of a jar.
  3. Layer about a heaping tablespoon of lilac blossoms on top of the sugar.
  4. Repeat the layers, ending with sugar as the top layer, leaving about an inch of headspace. 
  5. Put a cover on the jar and shake the contents. Repeat the shake every day for a week to avoid clumps. After about a week the flowers should be preserved and candied and deliciously infused with the lilac aroma. 
  6. You can either remove the lilacs from the sugar or leave them in, it’s entirely up to you.  I love the color they add to the sugar so I prefer to leave them in especially if I plan to gift the jars to friends and family. 

Ways to Use Lilac Sugar:

  • Use anywhere you would use regular sugar to impart a lovely floral essence.
  • Use in any dessert or baking recipe by replacing the same any given amount of granulated sugar with lilac sugar at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Use as a beautiful decoration by sprinkling on top of cookies, cakes, muffins or other baked goods. 
  • Use a little to sweeten tea either hot or cold.
  •  Infuse your favorite spring or summer cocktail with that lovely floral flavor!
  •  Use it to make a simple syrup to make wonderful spring and summer cocktails. See the simple syrup recipe above.
edible lilacs

Candied Lilac Blossoms

Any edible flower can be made into a decorating delight by turning them into candied flowers.

These beautiful edible lilac flowers can be had either plain or they can be used to decorate cakes, cookies, or other baked goods and make them look elegant.

There are two methods for making this sweet and beautiful confection. One is to dip the flowers in simple sugar syrup and the other is to brush with egg white, then dip in superfine sugar. 

METHOD 1:

Freshly picked lilac blossoms (stems all green removed)
1 egg white
2 tsp water
1/4 cup fine granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

  • Using tweezers or your fingers to hold the blossom, swish around in the egg whites until completely coated.
  • Let any excess egg drip off and then coat all areas of the blossom with super fine sugar. 
  • Lay spaced out on parchment until completely dry (about 12 hours). 

METHOD 2:

Freshly picked lilac blossoms (stems and all green removed)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fine granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

  • Cook the sugar and water until it reaches 220F on a candy thermometer.
  • Allow mixture to cool fully before dipping in the lilac blossoms. If not cooled fully, your blossoms WILL wilt. 
  • Sprinkle the sugar on top of the flower, making sure to coat all sides of the flower.
  • Allow the flowers to dry for around 12 hours.

Notes: For either method mentioned above, you can use your candied lilacs right away or store them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

The Outdoor Apothecary

Lilac and Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I love baking with edible flowers.  They lend such lovely flavors to baked goods.  Edible Lilacs are no exception. 

One of my favorite recipes to make is these amazing shortbread cookies. They can be made plain or with added ingredients.  I especially love them with lavender and lemon, or in this case lilac and lemon. I love to glaze these cookies and add some candied lilacs to really kick them up a notch! 

These are always a big hit and are perfect for Mother’s Day tea party. People are always amazed at how delicious and beautiful they are. 

EQUIPMENT

 
  • Medium Bowl
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Microplane (for zesting)
  • Parchment Paper
  • Baking Sheet

INGREDIENTS

For the Shortbread:

  • 14 Tbsp butter softened 2 sticks minus 2 tbsp
  • 3/4 cup lilac infused sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest. A microplane is the best tool for this.
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • pinch salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cream together the butter and infused sugar, then add the egg yolk, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and stir to combine.
  • Then add the flour, arrowroot, and salt.
  • Stir everything together until the dough begins to hold together.
  • Take it out of the bowl and form it into a log shape.
  • Wrap the dough log in parchment paper, twisting the ends to help hold it together.
  • Put the dough in the fridge or freezer for about 30 minutes, or until firm. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Slice the log into 1/4 inch rounds, then place the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about an inch or so apart.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check them closely after 25 minutes, as they will start to brown pretty quickly. Take them out when only the edges just barely start to turn golden. The centers will still be fairly soft.
  • Let them cool on the baking sheet for several minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. They will firm up as they cool.
  • Apply iceing on completely cooled cookies and top immedietly with candied blossoms.  Don’t wait until the icing is firmed up or your blossoms won’t stick. 

For The Glaze:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup*
  • 2 – 2.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • pinch salt*

NOTES:

  • Corn Syrup: This is what gives the icing its glossy shine. It’s optional, but I’d include it if you want your icing shiny.
  • Salt: I know salt isn’t a typical ingredient in cookie icing, but my taste testers and I preferred that little pinch of salt. Not more than 1/8 teaspoon. 
  • This dough can be made ahead and stored for several days in the fridge, or for several weeks in the freezer.
  • If you want to make different shapes, instead of forming the log you can alternatively refrigerate the dough as a flattened disk, then roll it out on a floured board and use a cookie cutter. 
  • I like to slice my log into disks and then roll each disk individually with a patterned wooden rolling pin

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