Vanilla, Lilacs, Voilets & Dandilions

lilacYesterday I posted a few recipes for using vanilla beans. In my quest to cut back our food budget. These are simple recipes and for some reason are stored some where in the back of my mind. Last night I got to thinking about them and wondered if I had forgotten something. I pulled out the now well worn and much loved red recipe box that belonged to my grandmother. The cards inside are yellow with age and each written so carefully in her hand. Some even have pressed flowers taped to them.

I found this recipe and though I’m sure my grandmother knew what it meant, the directions are a bit vague yet understandable if you have spent much time cooking from scratch.

Then this morning Kristin at Solar Family Farm asked about vanilla paste. I can tell she does a lot of baking because I have never used it or even thought about it for quite some time… So here it is…

Vanilla Bean Paste for Baking

1 Bean=1 TBL.

Grind dried but usable beans in coffee grinder until powder, stir in corn syrup until paste.

On the bottom of the same card is this recipe:

Lilac/Vanilla Sugar Cakes

Mix lilac and vanilla extract together and sprinkle onto sugar, form cakes and dry in just warm oven. Store in tins, will last the year.

*Karyn’s note: I assume this is for tea? but could be for baking?

Now this had me thinking I know what extract is but what is lilac extract. Knowing that lilacs grow all over the place around here I assumed that is exactly what it is…SO a quick search on the internet tells me lilacs are indeed edible and reported to be very perfumy, slightly bitter & has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. 

Ah-ha! lemony taste, slightly bitter mixed with sugar…. this would be what it is for….tea, sugar cakes…. Lemon, vanilla and sugar sound wonderful in a nice cup of tea, at least to me it does. I will have to try it out. Mother’s Day each year usually is the weekend the lilacs are in full bloom. I will put some up and give it a try. I’ll post about it later when I have actually tried the recipe.

Here are a few more interesting recipes from her box. I wouldn’t call my grandmother an herbalist by any means, she just knew her plants and grew them well and took advantage of the wild ones growing. One of my favorite things to do was go on flower picking walks with her. She made salves, jellies, and interesting jellies…

Candied Ginger

Wash, dry and scrape with a spoon freshly dug ginger and slice into ¼” slices. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat 3 more times. Drain and cover again with cold water and simmer for 40 minutes. Drain well.
For every pound mix 1 pound of sugar with 1/3 cup rain water. Add ginger to sugar water, simmer until ginger is transparent and syrup thick. Watch it well it will burn. In this state will store well in jars.

Cool slightly and toss in fine sugar and onto rack to dry. Save syrup and sugar for other use.


Dandelion Jelly

1 qt. Dandelion blossoms
2 qts. rain water
2 Tbl. Fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 oz. Powdered fruit pectin
5 1/2 C. Sugar

Pick bright, fresh dandelion blossoms and pack the quart container pretty tightly. Rinse quickly in cold water to remove any insects/dirt on the petals. Don’t leave to soak in the water.

Snip off the stem and green collar under each blossom, save only the yellow petals.

In an enamel saucepan, boil petals in water 4 minutes, until the water takes on their color. Pour mixture into cheese cloth and drain well. Press out all liquid. Measure 3 cups of liquid. Add the lemon juice and fruit pectin. Stir.

Bring to a boil, using a large kettle. Add the sugar, stirring to mix well. Continue stirring and boil the mixture for 2 ½ minutes. Pour into hot sterilized jelly jars and seal. Process for five minutes in a boiling water bath.

Pick fully open blossoms after morning dew has dried.
Dandelion Syrup

4 cups dandelion tops Just the yellow petals from fully open blossoms
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 quart water
2 pounds sugar

Place tops in water and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute, cover, and let stand overnight. Next day, strain in cheese cloth and squeeze out all water. Discard flower tops. Mix with lemon juice and sugar and simmer until most of the water evaporates. Do not bring to a hard boil.

Let mixture cool, then simmer once more until the thickness of maple syrup.  Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Store in cool dark cupboard.


To Make Corn Starch

Gather corn when it is a proper age for table use. Grate the corn into a clean large pot, into which drop the cobs as you grate them until the pot is about half full, rub the cobs and squeeze them dry as possible, and put them into another vessel of clean water, rub and squeeze them again the third rinsing will take all the starch out. Let it settle, pour all the starch together and strain it through a cheese cloth, and then through flannel. Let it settle until morning, You will find a thick yellow substance under the water, covering the pure white article in the bottom of pot, remove the yellow substance and pour clean water on the starch and stir it up, as soon as it settles thoroughly again, pour off the water and put the starch on dishes, and set it in the sun to dry. When ready to use it, moisten it with cold water and pour boiling water on, untill it is the right consistency for use. It requires no boiling.
Red Clover Blossom Syrup

1 qt. Red Clover blossoms rinsed and drained well. Don’t let them soak they will wilt.
1 qt. rain water
4 C. sugar
1 Tbl. Berry juicy, any berry in season you have on hand. Strawberries in June, Raspberries in July.

Put blossoms and water in a large opening pot. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, a bit longer on humid day. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit overnight. The next morning, strain in cheesecloth and press liquid out of spent flowers.  Add sugar and berry juice and heat slowly, stirring now and again, for several hours or until reduced to a thick, honey-like syrup. Can in 1 pint jar.

This portion makes a little more than 1 pint– triple this, and make when they are in season to have enough for the year.


Wild Violet Jelly

2 heaping cups of fresh violet petals Use fully open flowers Use whole flower green collar attached.
2 C. boiling clear rain water
1/4 C. strained, clear lemon juice
4 C. sugar
3 oz. (Certo)

Wash petals, drain and place in glass bowl. Pour boiling water over petals, cover and let sit overnight. Strain through cheesecloth and press out all liquid.

Add lemon juice and sugar to liquid in a wide top stainless steel pan. Bring to rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin and boil two minutes, skim foam that rises to the surface.

Ladle quickly into hot sterile jars 1/8’ from the top. Seal jar and turn upside down on clean towel to cool and seal.

Store in cool, dark cupboard.

This recipe also is good for rose, lavender, bee balm and garden mints. Pick purple not white violets when lawn is dry.
I’ll post more another day. This should give you a bit to think about…
I know there is one for processing dandelion roots to make coffee some where…





Check this out! IT SAYS SPRING! A Spring Trifle

Posted on March 30, 2009, in For Fun, Gardening, Herbs, Home Cooking Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Oh, thank you so much, Karyn! So many great recipes here! Sounds like my theory on making sugar syrup and combining with the vanilla would work…..I’d rather stay away from corn syrup. And I only read about the vanilla paste. It is supposed to be richer and mix in better with things like ice cream.

    We don’t have lilacs here. I grew up in an old farmhouse in NYS and we had a HUGE lilac bush! I love the smell! We would pick armloads each spring.

    And I just mentioned to my daughter about the violet jelly. We’ve got lots of blooms right now! Not sure if I’ll have a chance this year though….we’ll see!

    Thank you again for all these great ideas!!!

  2. Hi Kristin,
    You are very welcome for the recipes. I agree with you about the corn syrup. I was thininking an organic sugar syrup, or stevia?.

    Hope you have time to try the violet jelly. I can remember eating it on crackers years ago. I think your daughter will enjoy making it. It’s like a science experiment, when you add the lemon juice. I won’t give it away, but let her give it a try.

    If I come up with time to infuse any lilacs this year I will let you know, I will share of course 🙂 Can you beleive last year I was so busy I didn’t pick a single lilac and these are my favorite! That is sad.


  3. Using rainwater sounds like a novel idea. Is there a practical reason for it? Is it necessary for the recipe to turn out properly?

  1. Pingback: Wild Violet Jelly « Lizzy Lane Farm

  2. Pingback: Dandelion Jelly « Lizzy Lane Farm

  3. Pingback: Lilac cuisine

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