Citrus trees are weird dudes. Wired for reproduction, they are unlike almost any other plant in that they’ll always put more energy into flowering and fruiting than growing.
Even when they’re tiny and should *absolutely* be working on putting on leaves, citrus trees will stuff all their might into a massive show of bright, fabulous, heady-scented flowers. Then turn most of them into baby fruit. Only later, and with what I imagine is a sigh of frustration, will they admit that a plant one metre tall can’t actually support ten thousand limes, and drop some. Still, if they can carry some to maturity, they’ll definitely do that rather than grow leaves.
So let’s help them and us both out, and turn some of those flowers into a lovely liqueur that’s great on its own, or turned into cakes or whipped cream.
Making a flower liqueur
While we all love a careful recipe with nice easy to follow dot points, sometimes you gotta play jazz. This is one of those times. Flowers are a delight to infuse in booze but they are all a little different. Sometimes thick sometimes thin, sometimes heady with fragrance and sometimes more delicate.
My rule of thumb with capturing the sexy extravagance or fleeting elegance of flowers is to add them to a neutral spirit like vodka – making sure there’s enough spirit to cover the blooms – and leave them for a few hours to half a day. Then strain the flowers out and smell your booze.
If it is heady with fragrance you’re good to add sugar syrup and bottle. It will usually need another go round with fresh blossoms, or even several.
Makes about 700ml of liqueur
A few good handfuls of blossom. You may want to infuse more than once.
2 cups (500ml) vodka (40%)
½ cup (125ml) water
1 scant cup (175g) sugar
Tools: jar (at least 600ml capacity); kitchen strainer; small saucepan; funnel; 700ml bottle
Pick the blossom gently off its stem. The less green the better; you’re looking for buds just opening, ideally, or very young flowers. Put the flowers and vodka in a clean jar and leave in a dark place for a few hours to a day. Strain the flowers away from the vodka, and reinfuse if the vodka smells more like vodka than a flower shop.
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a bare simmer. Stir as you go to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat. Let this cool completely, strain and add it with the vodka to a clean bottle. It’s ready straight away, though age improves it.
Make it yours:
This is a starting point for any floral infusion. Roses, gardenias, jasmine or culinary lavender… just make sure the flowers are young, unsprayed, and from edible varieties. All roses are fine to eat, but many other plants like lavender fall into yum and not yum varieties. Google is your friend!
If you find this kind of stuff interesting and I know you do since you’re reading my strange little maker blog, check out how perfume makers do kinda the same thing with enfleurage. That’s embedding the fragrance into a solid fat, again and again and again, with extreme patience. Someday I will give enfleurage a go! Not this year! But someday!