Sucking Honey


Last May, when the honeysuckle began to bloom in North Carolina, the restaurant Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill overnighted me a frozen pint of honeysuckle sorbet. By the time it arrived on my doorstep it was a puddle. A sticky puddle. But the smell was heady. So I drank the stuff up with a straw. This year, I tried and failed to make a swing through Chapel Hill to taste chef Bill Smith's sorbet in situ. Now it's June. The very short honeysuckle season will soon to be over in North Carolina. When I called Crook's to ask how much longer they would be serving sorbet, the fellow who answered the phone was noncommittal. "We have some left," he said. "Maybe enough. Are you coming tonight?" Here in Mississippi, our honeysuckle is past its prime too. But I'm betting that some readers of this blog live in more northerly climes, where honeysuckle still flourishes. For you, here's a recipe, from Smith's book Seasoned in the South. And if you're wondering what honeysuckle sorbet tastes like, Smith writes, "It's like walking around at night with your mouth open." I'm not quite sure what that means but I'm going to find out—next year.

Honeysuckle Sorbet

From Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook's Corner and from Home
By Bill Smith

Makes about 2 quarts

4 cups (tightly packed but not smashed) honeysuckle flowers, leaves and stems discarded
5 1/3 cups cool water
1 1/3 cups water
2 cups sugar
Few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Speck of cinnamon

Place the flowers in a nonreactive container (glass or stainless steel) and cover with the cool water. Weight down with a plate. Let them stand on the counter overnight. In a small saucepan make a syrup out of the sugar and water by boiling it until all the sugar is dissolved and it begins to look lustrous and slightly thick, 3-5 minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from recrystalizing. Cool the syrup completely. Strain the honeysuckle infusion, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your previous efforts. Combine the two liquids and add the merest dusting of cinnamon. You don't want to taste it but you can tell if it's not there. I use the tip of a sharp boning knife to measure it. Churn in an ice-cream maker. This does not keep for more than a week.

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