Capture the delicate flavour of lilacs with this easy-to-make lilac syrup
It is 7:30am on a Sunday morning and I am crouching in a hedge on an industrial estate. The fact that the hedge I am embracing is located in Vienna and Mozart is buried in a cemetery just 400m away makes this expedition only marginally more glamourous. But I am a woman on a mission. The city’s lilac bushes are flowering and I want to snaffle a bagful of the blooms to make syrup before they are picked clean by other, speedier residents.
I’d spied the object of my foraging desires while out running the day before. A mature lilac bush with plenty of open blooms within my reach, and away from heavy traffic – perfect!
So here I am with my scissors and a plastic bag snipping as many lilac flowers as I think will come to 50g and dodging some fairly grumpy bees. Even though I’ve been quick on the draw, the trampled grass all around the bush tells me that I’m not the first to have zeroed in on this bounty.
I’m going to use the flowers to try out a lilac syrup recipe I’ve been storing up since last year. Already an old hand at elderflower and rosehip syrups, I’m eager to try out something new. And I’m pleased to say that my creation has turned out perfectly.
So, without further ado, here is my recipe for sweet and fragrant lilac syrup:
(Makes approx. 1 litre of syrup)
- 50g lilac blooms (any colour, but the light and dark purple ones do give the syrup a nice colour)
- 1 litre water
- Juice of one lemon
- 800g sugar (up to 1kg if you want a more viscous syrup)
- Separate the lilac blooms from the stalks, branches and leaves.
- Place the blooms in the pan and pour over the water plus the lemon juice.
- Leave to infuse at room temperature overnight.
- Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or a coffee filter paper to remove the blooms and other plant bits.
- Place the lilac infusion in a pan with the sugar and bring to the boil. Boil until the syrup starts to thicken slightly and pour into sterilised bottles.
Good to know:
- Depending on where you live, lilacs bloom from April through June.
- To avoid contamination with dirt and chemicals, try to pick your blooms from a bush away from heavy traffic and farmer’s fields where pesticides could be sprayed.
- Contrary to common belief, no part of the lilac bush is toxic to humans. But since the only thing you need for the syrup are the blooms, you should still remove all parts of the plant that you don’t need.
- The lilac syrup keeps for about 3 months. It is delicious as an addition to a white wine spritzer, with soda water or as a flavouring for ice cream and rice pudding.
Photo: Katharine Eyre © 2023