In life, as well as in the kitchen, I’m a big believer in making use of what you’ve got, and right now I’ve got a rambling honeysuckle vine draped over my front porch, just coming into bloom this week. Last year at this same time I made Honeysuckle Iced Tea with those very blossoms and I was amazed at how beautifully the fragrant nectar of the flowers infused into the tea. The flavor is subtle and exotic, and since you can’t actually see any evidence of honeysuckle in this ice cream, it’s one of those recipes that requires a little bit of imagination. If you’ve ever gotten a whiff of a honeysuckle flower, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When you translate that into a food, it’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted…kind of a hybrid of flavor and scent, and it really stretches my whole concept of what a flavor can be.
The light floral makes a surprisingly refreshing ice cream. I added the vanilla bean to ground it with a familiar flavor, but the honeysuckle holds its own, which makes sense since it was created by Mother Nature to be a powerful attractant.
The process for making this ice cream is simple enough. I just picked a big bunch of blossoms (it’s best to pick edible flowers in the morning when they’re fresh) and removed any leaves and stems. The flowers come in little pairs, and you want to pinch them off all the way down where they attach to the leaves, because that’s where the nectar is stored. I steeped them in my cream, milk, and sugar mixture by bringing it all up to a simmer and then turning off the heat. I let it cool, then refrigerate it over night to give the flavor plenty of time to infuse. In the morning I strained out the flowers, added vanilla bean, and processed it in my ice cream maker.
This is a very delicate flavor, definitely not meant for gobs of chocolate sauce or sprinkles. Serve it simply, all by itself, or with a plain cookie, and let the unique floral perfume of the blossoms shine. Save a few fresh flowers to scatter around for effect.
This would be a very elegant dessert to serve at a spring shower or dinner party.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups honeysuckle blossoms (this is approximate)
- seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- Put the cream, milk and sugar into a medium saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the honeysuckle blossoms into the pan and and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and let the mixture come to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, strain the blossoms out and add the vanilla bean seeds. Mix well to break apart any clumped seeds.
- Process the cold mixture in your ice cream machine according to its directions.
- Put the soft ice cream in the freezer to firm up before serving.
Honeysuckle bushes or vines are very common in the States, so check around and see if you can spot one. Depending on where you live, they will come into bloom sometime in the early spring and go right through summer. If you don’t happen to have a honeysuckle vine handy, don’t worry, you’re not out of luck. You can do this same thing with all kinds of edible flowers. Just be sure your flowers are clean and pesticide free. I think roses would work wonderfully, just remove the petals and steep them just like I did with the honeysuckle. Jasmine, lilac, or lavender would also work – pick a flavor that you like and give it a try.
Why should hummingbirds have all the fun?