Cooking with Lilac

A few quick notes on what I’ve learned from playing around with lilacs the past couple years.

I’ve tried several ways of extracting and preserving lilac flavors: in alcohol, in simple syrup, in dry sugar, distilled into a hydrosol using a crude pan-with-inverted-lid method. Lilac sugar works well for things like meringues but for general use a lilac syrup is the best. When I make mine, I add lemon juice, in order to make it safe for water-bath canning – heavy sugar syrups are safe to can without this, but I prefer syrups on the lighter side and just feel safer adding an acid to prevent botulinum growth. Also, I pretty much always want to add lemon flavors to lilac, so it’s convenient.

I braised a rabbit in a sauce built out of lilac and quatre ├ępices. My braising technique needs work but the sauce was good. This is definitely a set of flavors I’d try again with any lighter meat – poultry, rabbit, maybe pork.

There’s a standard set of things people do with floral syrups – pour it onto ice cream or cake or pancakes, mix it into soda, add pectin for jelly, etc. Substituting lilac for elderflower syrup in a recipe has never done me wrong.

Last but not least, this is one of my staples, and I’m surprised I haven’t published the recipe here before – it is a great fancy brunch cocktail.

Expo 74

This is the only cocktail I’ve made up that I’ve also managed to name well.

  • 1.5 oz Dry Fly gin (or another softer style of gin, like Hendrick’s)
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 0.5-1 oz lilac syrup, depending on how dry your wine is and how sweet your like your brunch cocktails
  • Sparkling wine

Or leave out the gin for a less inebriating mimosa.

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