A simple cordial or shrub infused with the incredible aroma of fresh milkweed flowers is an irresistible way to introduce people to the sweet possibilities of cooking with common milkweed flowers.
Nothing says summer to me grabbing a big handful of milkweed flowers and taking a whiff. The smell is so sweet, so floral, but at the same time, it's not cloying at all. It's just deep, dark and so sweet.
If I close my eyes while I smell my mind drifts to the things that will pair well with them, little lines of dancing cherries, strawberries, red currants, watermelon, and peaches: to me milkweed flowers want fruit, they crave fruit.
They're one of the most versatile wildflowers I know of: strong, sturdy, yet tender enough to pop in your mouth and sprinkle into salads or on top of a dish. Kept in the fridge in a plastic bag or contiainer, they'll last for weeks. Read that again: a beautiful flower that lasts for weeks, that you can eat?! YES.
One of my favorite things to make with them is milkweed cordial, a fruity, floral syrup you can do all kinds of stuff with. When people hear the word cordial, a lot of times they get a vision of something you'd make drinks with, but it's more than just for drinks.
How to use it
Drizzle some over vanilla, or even better yet a tart ice cream made with buttermilk, and top with a few strawberries. The high amount of sugar in the syrup also means that it's a preserative in itself, so could even preserve berries in the syrup, then spoon them onto things after they've had a little marriage in the fridge for a while.
But wait, there's more. You can substitute vinegar for all or parts of the water in the syrup, and it makes for even better savory uses, since I don't like things too sweet. To boot, a lot of floral and fruity aromas and very soluble in solutions that have vinegar in them, or in just pure vinegar itself. For non-drink uses, I always add 50%
Milkweed Flower Cordial
- 1 small sauce pot
- 2 Quart mason jars or another non-reactive container
- 7 ounces fresh milkweed flowers as deep colored as possible, remove from the stem
- 1 teaspoon citric acid
- 5 cups white sugar
- 4 cups water
- Heat the water until warm, but not boiling. Add the sugar and citric acid then whisk until the syrup is clear.
- Cool the syrup.
- Look the milkweed flowers over for walking creatures and creepy crawlies, then put into a container and pour over the cooled syrup.
- Put a lid, label and date on the container and let it sit in the sunshine on a windowsill for 4 days.
- After 3 days, strain the syrup, using gloves to squeeze as much liquid from the flowers as possible. Discard the flowers. Refrierate the syrup in a labeled, dated container, or bottles until needed.
Milkweed Flower Shrub
- 1 2 quart sauce pot
- 1 Fine Strainer or cheesecloth
- 2 ounces milkweed flowers or 1.5 cups flowers
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
- Stir the vinegar and sugar until melted, then add the milkweed flowers and allow to sit in a container like a mason jar, with lid, at room temperature. Strain after a week and store in the fridge for the best flavor.