Cherry Blossom time is here in Vancouver has started and to me, this marks the beginning of Spring. To others, it’s allergy season combined with the I don’t know what to wear time because you’ll freeze in the morning and roast on the way home. Maddening.
Vancouver celebrates the arrival of this beautiful time of year with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival March 24 to April 17, 2016. This festival honours the fragile flower by hosting tree talks and walks all over the lower mainland, blossom Biology Workshop along with online maps you can follow to go on your own adventure to view Vancouver’s best spots for photo taking. More info can be found at www.vcbf.ca
I had had the idea last spring to make syrup from cherry blossoms from a post from the brilliant Chef at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel who had posted a recipe to make Cherry Blossom Ice cream (link here) From there, I decided to take the syrup from the recipe and bottle it to keep it around year round to make not only ice cream, but sodas, cocktails, lattes and what ever you can dream up with it.
In Japan and China, the arrival of cherry blossoms is celebrated much in par as to how we mark fall and start up with the much loved/hated pumpkin spice. They have cherry blossom Kit/Kats, macaroons, cookies, tea and even Starbucks serves a cherry blossom latte. Blossoms are also preserved by pickling, dehydrating and being candied.
I plan on drying blossoms for tea and I am going to candy some for beautiful additions to special occasion cakes (wedding or baby shower cakes, wouldn’t that be gorgeous?)
The blossoms have just started this past week here in Vancouver so if you plan on trying any of this yourself, you best be planning now. First, you’ll need to find a tree that has not been sprayed. My neighbour and good friend allowed me to pick some from her tree. I also promised her that I wouldn’t pick more than needed. How much you can pick from a tree is dependant on the size of the tree. The foraging general rule is no more than 10% because those blossoms also are food for the bees and eventually fruit for the birds.
I picked approximately 8 cups from her tree which sounds like a lot but because her variety of tree had big and lush blooms, this added up quickly. You should also pick the blossoms at the very height their bloom. They remind me of avocados which if you wait to pick or deal with them later, it will all go south within 5 minutes. So clear your time in your schedule to pick and process the same day. Canning enthusiasts, you’ll know how this goes, once you start, you are committed.
How to make Cherry Blossom Syrup
First, procure your blossoms.
I filled this container which said it held 8 cups.
Time to clean and process them. Give them a final rinse just to be sure.
In a glass bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of sea salt to each cups of blossoms. I used 8 cups of blooms so I used 8 teaspoons of Himalayan pink sea salt.
Find another glass bowl and find something heavy to weight it down with. I jut so happen to have some beer in the fridge so that’s what I used. I then put the whole strange contraption in the fridge for 3 days. This pressing and salting of the blooms is to draw out the bitterness of the flower. I took out the combination a couple of times per day and mixed it around to make sure everything was breaking down in a uniform manner.
After 3 days I rinsed the blooms very, very well.
Now the fun part, I took the well rinsed blossoms and combined them in 8 cups of water along with 8 Organic Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tea bags. These are available online at Fairmontstore.com or if you can chat someone up who is living in or visiting Japan or China, you should pull out the favour card here. You do not have to use the tea bags, as the Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tea bags are a green tea blend, I find that it does somewhat overpower the very delicate flavour of the cherry blossoms. I love green tea so it just enhanced it for me. If you try it without, please comment below and let me know. I took 8 cups of water and 8 cups of organic sugar and brought it to the boil till all the sugar is dissolved. Basically making a simple syrup. I then put in the tea bags to steep and let the mixture cool to 80 C. (Anything higher than that will mar the delicate flavour of the flowers.) I stirred in the blooms and covered them and left them to cool completely, in my case, I left it overnight.
At this point I strained the mixture and then proceeded to bottle them in a hot water bath which I wont go into in this post. You could add red food colouring to make the syrup pink which would be stunning in drinks. As you can tell by this recipe, this makes almost 8 cups so be generous with your friends and neighbours (especially the one who let you pick the blooms) as this can keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks or so. If you process it as I did, the shelf life lengthens considerably. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and let me know if you have any questions. Happy Spring!
Please note that I myself, have paid for any products used for this post and the views and opinions are my own.