Herb Flower Sorbet Recipes:
My interest in flower sorbets came, oddly enough, from a garage sale find. Unwilling to pass up a good garage sale on my way to an herb festival in Iowa, I spotted a Donvier sorbet maker on a table of kitchen items. I was only moderately curious about sorbets, but the gadget, still in its original box, was marked $5. The owner quickly walked over when she saw me examining the appliance and, eager to make a sale, said, “It was a wedding present, and I’ve never used it. If you want it, it’s yours for $3.”
I took it. I knew from reading cooking magazines that a new sorbet maker sold for about $40. Surely I could find a use for it.
I soon learned that sorbets are so simple and easy I could make one while I visited with guests over dinner. The liquid-filled liner of the Donvier stays in my freezer, so when I have guests, all I need is chilled juice, some flowers or herbs, and I can whip up a sorbet while I’m sitting at the table sharing the main course with guests. It only takes about 15 minutes to freeze sorbets using this type of freezer: It’s hand-cranked, and all that’s required is to pour the already-chilled liquid into the freezer container, put on the lid and every two or three minutes, turn the crank one turn.
Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate (Fulcrum Press, 1995) taught me about lilac sorbet. “I know you love the fragrance of lilacs,” she said, “and the flavor is that and more.”
She was right. I’ve always loved lilacs, but never realized they were edible. With her suggestions, I soon was cranking out lilac blossom sorbets to amaze my guests. The heady fragrance and heavenly flavor of lilacs are such tangible elements of springtime that lilac sorbet has become a tradition for me each spring. Once I kept a container of this sorbet for some months, to enjoy the springtime treat later in the season, and the flavor held up extremely well.
That first foray into flower sorbets led me to try wild plum blossom sorbet, followed soon by pansy sorbets and violet, too. And rose! The enchanting flavor of rose sorbet is so provocative you feel as though your senses have found paradise. Your taste buds come alive with the sweet fragrance of the sorbet until you aren’t sure if you’re tasting or inhaling the frozen treat.
I recently visited the Herbfarm Restaurant in Woodinville, Washington. Jerry Traunfeld, chef of The Herbfarm, serves sorbets as palate cleansers between some of the courses (Editor's Note: Traunfeld has since left as chef of The Herbfarm). In The Herbfarm Cookbook (Scribner, 2000), he writes, “Sorbets have a brilliant capacity for capturing the essence of botanical flavors, and their cool, light texture and balance of sweet and tart refreshes like nothing else.”
Traunfeld uses lemon verbena as a sorbet base flavor, often combining it with ‘Mabel Gray’ lemon geranium leaves. His Black Pansy Sorbet is stunning — a kind of hot magenta — and uses very simple ingredients: black pansies, sugar, water and lemon juice. His combinations inspired me to come up with more. The flavor and texture is pleasant whether used between courses or as a light dessert.
There are two main methods for making a sorbet from flowers or herbs:
- The cooked method requires you to steep the flowers in hot sugar water, strain and add the remaining ingredients.
- The uncooked method requires the use of a food processor to blend superfine sugar with flowers or herbs and then add the remaining ingredients.
You don’t have to have the Donvier sorbet maker. However, I’ve tried several and found the Donvier 1-quart ice cream freezer to be my favorite. It’s quick, reliable, easy to use, simple to clean and freezes a very firm sorbet in just minutes. There are several electric frozen yogurt/sorbet mixers (including Cuisinarts) on the market that work well. Or you simply can pour the prepared liquid into a metal bowl in your freezer and stir well with a whisk every 5 minutes. After about 30 minutes, you’ll have a good slush and you can let it finish freezing.
Jim Long is a contributing editor to The Herb Companion and author of several books, including Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets (Long Creek Herbs). He can be reached at www.Longcreekherbs.com.