What invasive species and its transformation into food would give rise to my most transient Triangle experience?
No, it’s not kudzu or bamboo grass or starlings that I’m talking about but that lovely scented treat from Southern childhood – honeysuckle.
How many of us spent the first hot days of May and early June risking ticks and chiggers as we plucked honeysuckle flowers? We pinched each flower’s base and drew the anther through the blossom’s cone to reveal a sweet drop of nectar. Like bees or humming birds, we would suckle on the honey. Then–repeat.
I could and did spend hours at a mass of vine learning in the process which of the flower colors indicated the sweetest drops. (Answer: not the whitest nor the most yellow, but white going to yellow a sort of middle aged bloom is the most tasty and most reliable).
A few years back, I heard that Bill Smith at Crook’s Corner had invented a new dessert treat that captured this experience and improved on it. I rushed down to Crook’s and I wasn’t disappointed – I was taken to a special section of foodie heaven, a place where the most formative tastes of my childhood were re-presented and reformed and reimagined.
Bill had kept the distinctive honeysuckle flavor, made it both sweeter and cooler, by borrowing a cool extraction process some Persian recipes for flower nectar ices. Bill’s invention took me to the cool late May evenings spent along the vine covered hedges picking flowers but without the chiggers or ticks or – thanks Crook’s – the mosquitoes.
Since that first night at Crook’s, I’ve started making my own batches of sorbet. I returned to being food for the insect pests. I’ve been back out in the summer heat – especially this past weekend. But I can stockpile the honeysuckle flavor for a while and make some new uses of the sorbet
Since Bill was good enough to share his recipe in “Seasoned in the South,” I’ll share one innovation here.
Instead of putting the final liquid into an ice cream maker, I pour it into ice trays. Once the ice has solidly formed, serve about four cubes per chilled glass. Add two shots of good bourbon. Garnish with mint. Then as with Mint Juleps, sip slowly while holding the glass from the bottom allowing the heat of your palm to slightly warm the mixture.
Don’t hurry. In time, you will be transported and transformed.