Honeysuckle Sorbet

Honeysuckle Sorbet - TheMessyBaker.com

18 Jun Honeysuckle Sorbet

Honeysuckle in my garden - TheMessyBaker.com

Right outside my kitchen porch, a graceless post stands cemented in the ground. Its thick, square bulk is so awkward it can’t be passed off as rustic. Ferns and periwinkle hide its base while a honeysuckle vine attempts to disguise the rest of its towering mass. In early summer, the honeysuckle flowers in a wildly distracting manner. Pink blossoms bob in the breeze and release a fragrance so sweet and floral you think you’ve walked into a perfume bottle.

With heady honeysuckle on one side and a riot of climbing roses on the other, I feel like I live in a movie —an uncredited character in The Secret Garden. But when the vine gets tangled in the wheel of the clothes line, which is why the pole exists in the first place, life does a slow dissolve into the Three Stooges. There’s a lot of hand slapping, shrieking and “Why, I oughta…!” In the end, the vine is in tatters, t-shirts lay strewn on the grass like they lost a bar fight, and I leave the scene covered in petals, sweat and a thin layer of self-loathing. Every year I vow to remove the invasive honeysuckle and hide the pole with docile impatience-in-a-bag. Every year I forget until it’s too late.

This year? My disorganization is rewarded. That clothes-line-clogging honeysuckle is staying. Forever. And ever. Amen.

Why? Dessert, of course.

Honeysuckle Sorbet - TheMessyBaker.com

Within minutes of posting a photo of the honeysuckle vine on twitter, cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez told me about an unusual recipe — Honeysuckle Sorbet. In 90-minutes, I’d hunted down the video and recipe, had honeysuckle blossoms steeping in water, and had received Chef Bill Smith’s permission to post his signature dish. Smith is the chef at Crook’s Corner Café and Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and author of  Seasoned in the South. North Carolina just got itself added to my travel bucket list.

So, late last night, by porch light and hungry mosquitoes, I picked all the honeysuckle blossoms I could. I had enough for a half recipe, which produced a quart of sorbet. That’s okay. It’s not like I run a restaurant or am expected to share.

Steeping honeysuckle for sorbet - TheMessyBaker.com

I admit, as I picked the blooms, I feared both extremes — that the sorbet would taste soapy or be nothing more than a fragrant snow cone. My concerns were unfounded. The sorbet tastes like honeysuckle smells. Sweet and floral, a bit like honey, a bit like heaven. It’s icy yet smooth, with a refreshing flavour that can’t be mass produced. If ephemeral had a taste, this would be it.

Honeysuckle Sorbet - TheMessyBaker.com

And so, this recipe makes a long and convoluted journey. From Sandra’s tweet, to Bill’s recipe, to my garden, to you. The clothesline will just have to deal with it.

Honeysuckle Sorbet
Recipe type: Ice Cream and Frozen Treats
Cuisine: American
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 quarts
Honeysuckle sorbet is the signature recipe of James Beard award winner chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner Cafe and Bar. It captures the aromoa of honeysucke in a not-too-sweet sorbet.
  • 4 cups tightly packed but not smashed honeysuckle flowers, leaves and stems discarded (Lonicera japonica is the edible kind)
  • 5⅓ cups cool water
  • 1⅓ cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • a few drop freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • a speckcinnamon
  1. Steep the blossoms: Place blossoms in a nonreactive bowl, glass or stainless steel, and cover with cool water. Weigh down with a plate. Let them stand on the counter overnight.
  2. Make a simple sugar: Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to look lustrous and slightly thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Add lemon juice to prevent sugar from recystallizzing. Cool syrup completely.
  3. Make the sorbet mixture: Strain honeysuckle infusion, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your efforts. Combine the two liquids and add the merest dusting of cinnamon.
  4. Churn: Churn in an ice cream maker, per manufacturer's instructions.
This does not keep for more than a week or two.

This recipe is published with the generous permission of its creator, Bill Smith of Crook's Corner Cafe and Bar. It appears in his book Seasoned in the South, (Algonquin Books, ©2006).

Please note that Lonicera japonica is the edible form of honeysuckle that grows commonly in North America. There are more than 180 species of honeysuckle worldwide. Most species in Europe are not edible.


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  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 13:10h, 19 June Reply

    Now this recipe with this writing concocted within hours from Point A (tweet) to Point B (sorbet) is nothing short of genius. Brief, brilliant, incredibly well written… you could get BIG BUCKS for this article.
    Am so thrilled to have witnessed the entire exchange, sans the permission to use the recipe… which I will be seeking soon when I make it with my Mandarine Honeysuckle blossoms, should the sun every shine long enough to warm the buds to open!
    :) V

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:29h, 19 June Reply

      Oooh, I’m putting “genius” on my resume :-) Thanks for the words of support, Valerie. I can’t wait to hear how your Mandarine Honeysuckle version tastes. I’m curious to know if it has orange/citrus undertones. I don’t know the name of my honeysuckle variety. It’s always just been that stupid plant that gets caught in the clothes line — until now!

      Just so readers aren’t confused, I didn’t receive any compensation for writing this post. My reward was a quart of amazing honeysuckle sorbet.

  • Ian Fincham
    Posted at 22:23h, 19 June Reply

    The variety of honeysuckle it is appears to be Lonicera periclymenum, which can be poisonous in large doses. Honeysuckle sorbet is an amazing treat, I make it yearly with Lonicera japonica. There actually aren’t that many species of honeysuckle that are edible, so be sure to do your research! Love this article as well.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 02:00h, 20 June Reply

      Thanks for this information. I’ll add a note to the blog post immediately.

      I looked up Lonicera periclymenum and you’re right about it being toxic in large doses. Fortunately, the effects are mild. Interstingly, it also medicinal properties.

      Thanks again!

  • Carole
    Posted at 04:45h, 21 June Reply

    Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is collecting snacks and treats? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. There are already quite a lot of links for you to check out. Cheers

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:43h, 21 June Reply

      Thanks, Carole. I just popped by your link. So many ideas to choose from. The Food on Friday Pinterst board is a great idea. How else could one choose?

      Thanks again.

      • Carole
        Posted at 22:16h, 22 June Reply

        Charmian, so glad you brought this treat over to the table. Hope to see you again soon. Cheers

  • Heidi @ Food Doodles
    Posted at 22:52h, 22 June Reply

    This is such an awesome idea! I don’t know how I’d ever collect that many honeysuckle flowers, but I must try this some day. If I had to pick one flavor/scent to remind me of my childhood it would be have to be honeysuckle :)

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:04h, 23 June Reply

      They say scent is the strongest memory trigger. I believe that. Lily of the valley (a poisonous plant, so don’t eat it) brings back memories of my grandmother. Every. Time. And she died more than 40 years ago!

      If you don’t have enough honeysuckle to pick (and pick the Japonica variety!) you can always just drink in the smell! It truly is heavenly!

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