Monday, April 15, 2013

Orange Blossoms

If you have access to orange blossoms, do not let them go to waste. These gorgeous little flowers grow on orange trees and smell like absolute heaven. They are wonderful for making orange blossom (also known as orange flower) water and simple syrup (recipe below). 

Citrus sinensis Osbeck painting by Mary E. Eaton from a 1917 issue of National Geographic

Chances are you have possibly tried orange blossom honey (made when the bees pollinate in citrus groves during blooming period) and if you haven't you should talk to the honey purveyor at your local farmer's market - look for the Bill's Bees stand here at most of the Los Angeles area farmer's markets as they always carry it seasonally.

Orange blossom water is popular in both Middle Eastern and French cuisines and also in lots of fun sweets and bakery items like scones and marshmallows.  My new favorite way to utilize it is in the form of a simple syrup that you can then use to sweeten and flavor iced tea and vodka (or gin) martinis - depending on your mood :) 

To make the simple syrup you must first make the scented water. If you were to buy orange blossom water in the grocery store you will note that it is made with distilled water. You can use distilled water if you prefer it but regular old tap or filtered water works fine too - the difference is simply that the distilled water has zero traces of any sort of naturally occurring minerals or impurities. 

To make the water, first clean your blossom thoroughly - give them a good rinse and check for little buggers. Next, pull the petals apart and slightly crush them as you drop them into a saucepan.  Add about half a cup of water for every 10 blossoms or so. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and let set for 2 hours. Strain. And've got beautiful orange blossom-scented water. 

Now for the Simple Syrup.  

Use the basic ratio of 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes or until all of the sugar is completely dissolved and your liquid has a slight "syrup-like" consistency. Turn off Heat. Store in a glass jar or squeeze bottle in your fridge for up to a month. 

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