This honeysuckle season, try preserving the edible flowers by infusing them into a deliciously sweet and floral Honeysuckle Vodka.
Each spring, the woods behind our apartment turn white with honeysuckle blossoms, and it smells spectacular. If you, like me, grew up eating the tiny, minuscule drops of ‘honey’ from these flowers, you may have also wished that you could somehow, possibly, get a bunch of these dainty flowers together and miraculously collect all of the sweet nectar.
I don’t know how many thousands (or millions) of flowers it would take to harvest a jar of honeysuckle nectar, and I’m not even sure it would be possible. What I do know, however, is that you can preserve those delicious and edible flowers in vodka. In doing so, you’ll infuse the vodka with both the delicate floral scent of the petals AND the taste of the nectar. This Honeysuckle Vodka is a simple and easy way to savor these edible wildflowers.
Where I live in Central Appalachia, honeysuckle is everywhere. In fact, I’ve never had to go looking for it, because it’s just always been there– a friendly, flowering spring welcome sign. If you do not live in an area where honeysuckle is ever-present, do a little research and find out what to look for in your area.
To harvest honeysuckle, grab a bucket (or some other large container) to drop the flower petals into. Simply pinch the flower off the vine at the base, and make sure you get the entire flower. If you want to taste the nectar as you go, pinch the bottom green part of the flower off, and pull it through the flower. You should see a tiny little bead of nectar.
How many flowers should you gather? This recipe uses about two cups of flowers, but you could certainly half or double the recipe easily. I usually just gather until I think I’ve got around two cups.
Once you’ve gathered as many flowers as you want, bring them inside and clean them off. Fill a sink or bowl with cool water, and then dip the flowers, a couple at a time, into the cold water to rinse off dust or pollen from other plants. Avoid running water over the flowers, because you could damage the flower or rinse off the nectar. Lay flowers out on a towel to dry.
MAKING HONEYSUCKLE Vodka
Once your flowers have dried, put them in a glass jar. You want to fit as many flowers in your jar as possible, but you DON’T want to squash the flowers.
Next, you need orange zest. Wash a naval orange (preferably one with no wax), and use a vegetable peeler to remove the orange zest in long strips. Take care to avoid getting any of the white pith, because it will infuse your vodka with a bitter flavor. Set the orange zest on top of the honeysuckle flowers in the jar. Next, pour vodka into the jar until the flowers and orange zest are completely covered. Seal the jar with a lid, and set it out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks.
Once the vodka has finished absorbing the flower flavor, strain out the flowers and orange peel by pouring the vodka through a mesh sieve. Next, you’ll heat water and sugar together to make a simple syrup. Once the syrup cools, add it to the vodka gradually, tasting to see how sweet you’d like it.*
TIPS FOR HARVESTING HONEYSUCKLE
- Make sure what you’re harvesting IS HONEYSUCKLE. If you aren’t positive, leave it.
- Never harvest honeysuckle (or any wild plant that you intend to eat) that’s on the side of a busy road or other high-pollutant areas.
- If the plant isn’t on your property, make sure you have permission before harvesting.
- Bees love honeysuckle too– be aware of where you’re placing your hands when picking flowers.
- Only harvest the flowers. Some varieties of honeysuckle have berries, and the berries are poisonous.
Troubleshooting: Homemade liqueurs tend to be extremely shelf-stable because of the alcohol. To make your liqueur last as long as possible, keep it in an airtight container and try to use it within a year. However, if your infused vodka ever develops an odd flavor or scent, or if you see mold in it– throw it out!
Yields about 2 cups
- 2 cups honeysuckle flowers, stems + leaves removed
- 1 naval orange, organic and unwaxed preffered
- 2 cups unflavored vodka, 80 proof
Simple Syrup: (Added After the Vodka Has Infused)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- glass jar with lid (16oz mason jar ideal)
- chopstick or butter-knife to push down flowers
- mesh sieve
Infusing Honeysuckle Vodka:
Clean honeysuckle by dipping flowers in cool water and then laying out on a towel to dry.
Once flowers have dried, place them in a glass jar, and gently push them down until their aren't large air bubbles-- DO NOT squash the flowers. Some extra space is fine.
Wash orange in warm water, using a vegetable scrub brush if the orange is waxed. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler, taking care to only get the orange zest and not the white pith. Add the peel to the top of the jar, above the honeysuckle. Don't add the orange peel first-- it will serve as a weight and keep the honeysuckle submerged. (You can eat the orange-- you're not adding it to the jar.)
Slowly pour the vodka into the jar, using a chopstick to gently push down the flowers and orange peel. Seal the jar with a lid, and set jar aside for 2-3 weeks. The jar doesn't have to be in the dark, but make sure it's out of direct sunlight.
Once the vodka has finished infusing, pour it through a mesh sieve to remove the flowers and orange peel.
Add sugar and water to a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir to ensure all the sugar has been dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Once the syrup has cooled, add half of the sugar simple syrup to the vodka. Taste, and see if you want it to be sweeter. Sweeten more if desired. Store the vodka out of direct sunlight in an airtight container, and drink it straight or in mixed drinks.