If you also live in the Midwest, you know that this year has been particularly good for the flowering trees, especially the lilacs. If you grew up in the Midwest on a farm you most likely had at least one lilac bush. Drive through the rural areas now and you will often see random ancient lilacs just growing “wild” where an old farmhouse once stood. My parents have two old lilacs on the south side of the house, right outside the first floor bedrooms. My grandparents had a row of them between the backyard and their huge vegetable garden. My great-grandparents had them behind their house too. Steve’s grandparents even had them outside their somewhat suburban house in Saginaw Michigan.
When we were house shopping for this house 16 years ago we made an offer on a house even though we didn’t particularly like the house but it had a 50 yard long row of old lilacs along the property line. We didn’t get that house and I cried. (I was also pregnant and extremely hormonal at the time.) Now I have my own lilacs and this year is the first year that they have bloomed with abandon. Like my childhood home, I planted them right outside my bedroom so on warm spring nights I can fall asleep with their scent in my head. They are also right along the pool fence so this week we have been swimming with their heady scent.
I have mentioned before how much I love Facebook and how it has brought people back into my life that time and distance had taken away. One of those people is my friend Jeff. We went to middle and high school together. In my opinion he is a modern day Renaissance Man. His interests and talents are also truly eclectic. He recently posted that he was making Lilac Simple Syrup from lilacs he “harvested” from an old homestead in the part of Michigan where he lives. I was intrigued! So today I made my own batch of Lilac Simple Syrup and took photos to show you all how it is done.
Boil 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until sugar is dissolved.
Harvest approximately 1-2 cups lilac florets (the petal part, no leaves or stems)
Add to the water/sugar mix. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Strain and cool. This can be stored in your refrigerator for about a week. Jeff suggests adding a splash of vodka or citric acid to help preserve it longer. It can also be frozen for a bit of May sunshine later in the season.
Now you may be asking yourself, “But Beth, you opened this post with a picture of a martini! I want a martini! Where is the martini recipe?” This is how you make a Lilac Martini:
First off, chill your martini glasses. If you don’t have a bar fridge where you can just store them during the non-martini drinking moments of your life, fill them with crushed ice while you are doing everything else. The colder the martini, the better.
The recipe for a lilac martini is simple. Fill your martini shaker with ice. Pour vodka over it until full, add a shot of Lilac Simple Syrup. Then shake that bad boy like it is your job! Dump the crushed ice out of your now chilled glasses and pour.
Jeff and I have been comparing notes on Facebook and he has plans for a cardamom infused simple syrup to add to a gin martini and I’m thinking mint syrup for mojitos. I’m also growing nasturtiums this year which are also edible and have a peppery flavor and may make for an interesting cocktail.