Lilac Sorbet

There are some fragrances that are just better than others. This one is my favorite, the primary fragrance I look forward to each spring and I have a long history with this flower. Along about the year this embarrassing photo was taken, I was in love. No, not with the bear, but with Clara Jean Graves.

Jeanie, as I knew her in the first grade, had freckles and blue eyes and a sense of humor that made me happy. I looked forward to seeing her every day. We were in the same one-room school, along with 28 or 30 other students, grades 1-8. Every day she and I took our lunches over to an old Osage Orange tree that had a limb near the ground, looking for all the world like it was reaching down, just so school kids could sit there. We'd unlock our lunch boxes and talk about classes we'd had that day. Her being a year older and in the second grade, she was more knowledgeable. But since I sat behind her, my being the only one in the first grade, I got to listen in to her lessons and learn second grade material.

I decided during lilac blossom time that I was going to propose to Jeanie before someone else claimed her for a future wife. I wanted to do something special to make sure she knew how serious I was about her. We had an ancient set of Encyclopedias in the school and I read up on how to make perfume. Basically, I learned, flower essences were the collected steam of hot water vapor from flowers. Knowledge in hand, my mother allowed me to bring some water to a boil into which I added a whole lot of lilac flowers. I covered the steaming pan with a tea towel and collected the steam. I'd found a very tiny, old perfume bottle, so wrung out my lilac flower essence into the bottle. Next day, I could hardly stand it until lunch time came. Out of my lunch box I pulled the tiny vial of lilac flower essence and handed it to Jeanie. She wasn't impressed, and refused to believe I had made it. Her not believing me, no matter how much I tried to persuade her, ended our lunches together, and any future marriage plans, as well. But I never stopped liking lilacs.
I've been making flower and herb sorbets for years but it was my friend, Cathy Barash (author of Edible Flowers) who told me about using lilacs for sorbet. Recently I made plum blossom sorbet, another favorite, but even though it is very fragrant and tasty, nothing compares to lilac sorbet. Here's the recipe, from my book. If you're interested in lots more easy and delicious Herb and Flower Sorbet recipes, order the book, here.
Lilac Sorbet
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (or more) lilac flowers, stems removed, chopped slightly in the food processor

Pour the water into a non-aluminum saucepan, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and add the flowers. Allow the liquid to simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Strain.

Pour strained liquid into a small ice cream freezer or sorbet maker and freeze. Serve as soon as sorbet is fully frozen, or pack in ice or the freezer for an hour.

I use a Donvier sorbet maker, which I found at a yard sale for $5. I often see them in thrift shops and have bought a couple more that way. You can order them from the company, new, for about $60. The inner part is kept in your freezer, then when you want to make sorbet, remove the liner from the freezer, put it inside the plastic cover, pour in chilled liquid and turn the crank. In a mere 15 minutes, with turning the crank once every couple of minutes, you have perfect sorbet!
And what you get, is perfect sorbet every time. Here's a photo of the plum blossom sorbet (recipe also found in my book). I haven't taken a pic of the lilac sorbet yet.
If you like the fragrance of lilacs, or plum blossoms, then you will really enjoy the flavor, too. It's more intense, delightfully fragrant and keeps well in the freezer.
Pansies, lavender, roses, Sweet Williams, violets and many more edible flowers make outstanding sorbets. There are over 45 recipes and lots of tips and instructions for great sorbets in my book. Springtime, it's time for sorbet, healthier than ice cream, quicker than a trip to the store. Happy spring!

Also, I'm proud to say, this posting has been translated into Estonian by Anna Galovich, with my permission, on her blog, 1800 Flowers. You can find her interesting blog here.


compost in my shoe said...

I remember they were so tall in our yard at the ripe old age of 8 years, that one way to smell them easily came when I would go horse back riding. I could get right up to them at eye level. I love that flower. This was in northern Ohio on Lake Erie!

Nancy Smith said...

I can't even imagine anything more elegant than lilac sorbet.
Loved your lilac story. You made the right decision. Never marry someone who does not believe in you!
I hope to try the sorbet this evening and save it for some very special time. Thanks for posting.

Rhonda Daniels said...

What a fun story, and a scrumptious recipe...happily I have a Mt. Baker that is just budding out and an ice cream maker that needs to be fired up :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to refer back to an old topic of yours. I saw a posting on Green Pepper Basil. Do you still grow it? Are you familiar with Thai Holy Basil (think it's the same as Indian Holy Basil...Tulsi)? Does this have a similar taste? I know the Holy Basil has a peppery taste. I'm looking for a substitute as the Holy isn't that easy to grow away from the tropics. Thanks.

D Thomas

Pammy said...

What a romantic little fellow you were Jim ;) Jeanie missed out! Your recipe looks scrumptious and I need to get an ice cream maker this year, but was holding out for a new pasta machine. Happy Gardening!!

Amanda said...

I have the base all made up for your sorbet recipe and I'll be making it tomorrow morning. It looked so good I put a link to it in my blog http://dabblingsandwhimsey.blogspot.com/2011/04/celebrating-spring-lilac-martinis.html
I came up with a lilac martini recipe. So sorbet for the kids and martinis for the sdults :)

Jim Longs Garden said...

Amanda, thanks for posting the link to your blog and the great lilac recipes. My lilac is gone for this year but Sweet Williams are just starting and I think a William martini would be just the thing!

Jim Longs Garden said...

Hi D. Thomas,
No, green pepper basil is very different from holy basil. Holy basil has a very clove-like flavor and scent, while green pepper basil has the flavor of both green peppers and basil. You can find green pepper basil from Nicholsgardennursery.com.

Jim Longs Garden said...

I'm proud to say the entire blog post about lilac sorbet has been translated into Estonian by Anna Galovich, on her very nice blog. To see the posting, visit her blog here: http://blog.1800flowers.com/international/lilla-sorbet-es/