Infusing Herbs and Flowers: Acacia Flower Syrup
Edible flowers can have an allure that extends beyond their perfume. If only I could capture the pleasure somehow to enjoy beyond the short window in which they bloom. Acacia is out in the Lyonnais region at the moment, and we're seeing their delicate cascading blooms in bundles on market tables.
I have been doing a series of workshops on herbs in French cooking, and one of the things we do is a simple herb infused syrup to use in your house kir. A kir is Champagne or white wine with a bit of a flavored syrup or a liqueur like crème de cassis, a typical apéritif served in many French homes. Making your own herb infused syrup can lift a very common French before-dinner drink to something memorable for your guests. What they don't know is that it takes no more than five minutes of hands on work to create your own quick syrups in advance. What they will remember is that you turned an old classic standby into something creative and unusual.
The main idea about infusing herbs is to know what part of the plant contains the oils that give them their flavor, and at what point in the plant's development these oils are most concentrated in the plant. I love to use verbena leaves in this type of syrup infusion, and we do this before it blooms. But yesterday at the market the little baskets of acacia flowers' beautiful aroma drew me in even before I saw them. It's the blooms of this plant that harbor the flavor and aroma. I'd bought a bundle of them for a euro before even thinking about what to do with them.
Just in the way things meld together from my various projects, I knew what I wanted to do with these flowers. I coaxed the beautiful perfume out into a syrup, which I served simply over fromage blanc en faiselle after dinner last night. Magic. When my guests had been fed breakfast and sent to the Musée des Beaux Arts this morning, out came the syrup again for me to enjoy with breakfast. Here is the recipe.
Acacia Flower Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup plain table sugar
6 stems of faux acacia flowers
Bring the sugar and water to a full rolling boil, and let it boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes. While the sugar boils, inspect the flowers to insure they are clean and free of any wind blown debris or critters. Remove the flowers from the stems by simply plucking them off with your fingers. Put the flowers into the hot sugar syrup. Stir lightly to saturate the flowers. Let them infuse in the syrup until it cools to room temperature. Strain and transfer the syrup to a jar or bottle, and chill. It will keep several weeks. Serve over fromage blanc en faiselle or yogurt, or make a kir with a couple of tablespoons of this syrup in a flute of Champagne or white wine. Float a flower or two in the glass, or put it on the dessert. You can eat the flowers.