I didn’t participate in Slow Scoopers last summer but they inspired me to buy an ice cream maker which has been in winter storage but is now out and cranking! This amazing sorbet is the first thing I’ve made this year and also, this was my first ever experience of foraging in the wild for ingredients. :)
There are a few things I’ve eaten in my life that were so good they almost made me swoon and this sorbet is one of them. It’s a cult classic dessert here in North Carolina and every spring, people flock to my favorite local restaurant, Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, to eat this stuff. Bill Smith (the chef at Crooks’ and a 2009 James Beard finalist for best regional chef) created this recipe after doing research into medieval Arabic and Sicilian recipes for flower ices.
Pretty much every Southern kid learns how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, pull the stamen out, and then eat the tiny drop of honey inside the flower. Well, this sorbet tastes like a combination of that honey droplet and the aroma of honeysuckle when it’s in bloom.
From Bill’s cookbook, Seasoned in the South:
“The first bite of this tends to silence people, particularly if they grew up around here. It’s like walking around at night with your mouth open. In fact, the flowers are best if picked at night because that is when they really release their fragrance.”
So this spring when a huge stand of honeysuckle in the woods behind my house came into bloom, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t pick the flowers in the middle of the night but I did get up early in the morning. It took a while to pick enough but it was kinda fun and relaxing (or maybe I was high from the aromatherapy of hanging out with the honeysuckle for that long).
You soak the flowers overnight and then strain them and use the soaking water to make the sorbet. The recipe is in Bill’s cookbook and also on the Web here. Bill notes in his book that you shouldn't pick flowers that are close to a road because that can make the sorbet taste sooty. He also says to pick wild blossoms, not cultivars, and make sure you only pick the flowers because the stems and leaves will give the sorbet a chlorophyll flavor.
This sorbet tastes like ambrosia from the gods!