This post sees me returning to another love of mine, cookery. Way back in 2012 I made some salt-pickled cherry blossoms (or sakura) using this recipe from Wagashi Chronicles. I totally fell in love with the flavour. I’m going to share with you several cherry blossom recipes, starting with salt preserved cherry blossoms, then sakura syrup, which is an ingredient in the next recipe, sakura ice cream. I’m also including a matcha meringue recipe which uses up the egg whites from the meringue making process and is a good earthy and bitter accompaniment to the sweet and salty cherry blossoms.
Making salt preserved sakura takes several days, so start well in advance of when you want to serve your ice cream.
Salt Preserved Cherry Blossoms:
200g cherry blossom buds
4 tablespoons plum vinegar or saltwater with a dash of rice wine vinegar
First, rinse the blossoms and pick the stalks off, then toss them in half the salt, cover with clingfilm and weight (I used a full mustard jar) overnight.
The next day, squeeze out the water and sprinkle with plum vinegar. Cover with clingfilm, weight and leave for 3 days.
Spread the flowers out to dry on a cloth, near a radiator or sunlight for another 3 days.
Toss with the rest of the salt and keep in a lidded jar at room temperature.
I’m taking the use of these pickled cherry blossoms a step further today by turning them into ice cream. I combined 2 recipes, one from The Guardian ‘How to make the perfect ice cream’, and an uncooked one from Cookpad Japan to make my own heated custard cherry blossom ice cream. It is VERY rich and very delicious. I made matcha meringues at the same time, and they provided a nice bitter foil to the sweet and salty sakura. I really wish that you could taste the sakura ice cream for yourselves because it is such a unique flavour. It is like a very floral, perfume-y marzipan. One thing I didn’t do was to add food colourings. I think the end results don’t look especially beautiful and I think that they would have conveyed more of the flavour in the photos had I added pink food colouring to the ice cream and green food colouring to the meringues.
You need to make Sakura Syrup in order to make the ice cream, so I’ll include the syrup recipe first. The recipe is from Obubu Tea and adjusted slightly.
Sakura Syrup recipe:
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water steeped with salted cherry blossoms
1.Steep approximately 15 salt-pickled sakura in some hot water for 1 minute and discard this water (This is to draw some of the salt out. You can keep it and add a little to the next steeping if the flavour is not strong enough.)
2. Add the sugar and heat in a pan until the sugar has dissolved and it boils. Turn off the heat once it has come to the boil
3. Allow to cool and pour into a screw top jar.
Sakura Ice Cream Recipe:
600ml double cream
5 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
1/3 of a jar of salted cherry blossoms /a small handful. You can soak them in water briefly first to draw out some of the salt, but I didn’t do that!
3 Tablespoons of pickling liquid from pickled cherry blossoms recipe (omit if you do not have this or purchase Sakura Essence)
1 cup of sakura syrup/ to taste
100g caster sugar
1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
2. Scrape the contents of the vanilla pod into the cream and bring it to the boil.
3. Add the salted cherry blossoms to the cream and turn it down to a simmer for 5 mins.
4. Turn the heat off and let it infuse for 20 minutes. Add the sakura syrup.
5. Bring the cream back to a simmer and add the eggs, beating as you go. Let the mixture thicken until a line drawn in the mixture on the back of a spoon holds it’s shape.
6. Pour the custard into a cold bowl (I put my bowl into a wok filled with ice and icepacks) until it is cool enough to go in the fridge.
7. Add the pickling liquid (and food colouring if you decide to use it)
8. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
9. Stir well with a fork and put into the freezer for half an hour, then beat well with a fork. Do this 3 times.
10. Leave for at least an hour. (I left it overnight).
For my matcha meringues I followed a classic meringue recipe by Delia Smith. Because we’re making the meringues partly to use up the egg whites, my recipe is for 5 egg whites.
5 egg whites
250g caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons of matcha tea
Set oven to gas mark 2/150 degrees C
1. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks
2. Mix the matcha and sugar together
3. Gradually add the matcha and sugar, whisking as you go.
4. Add the food colouring now if you are using it.
5. Spoon onto baking sheets
6. Turn the oven down to Gas mark 1 /140 degrees C and bake for 40 minutes
7. Turn the oven off and leave it to go cold with the meringues still in the oven.
Here is the extremely delicious outcome: It does look a little disappointing colour-wise because I didn’t use food colouring, but I promise you it is more than made up for by the taste! The meringues are crunchy, and the ice cream is rich and creamy, with the almost marzipan flavour of sakura. It is quite an involved process but it was SO worth it. The taste of sakura is really something quite special.
Have you collected any cherry blossoms this year? Do you think you will try the recipe? I would love to know if you have ever made anything with cherry blossoms, and I’d love to see how your sakura ice cream turns out if you make some!