One of my favourite flowers is lilac. If I look out of the kitchen window during kneading a dough, chopping ingredients or washing dishes, I see our lilac bushes right in front of me. I am grateful to Uncle Jóska and Aunt Rózsa for planting purple and white ones along the fence.
For me it is the sign for that spring has finally arrived, when the fragrance of lilac is in the air and I can go out and pick a handful from the flowers and arrange them nicely on our dining table.
I have been planning to make a syrup from lilac for years. It is a nice feeling, being aligned with the rhythm of nature and use whatever our orchard offers us. This year I started first by making dandelion honey, then continued with a lemon cake that I decorated with daisies. Now, it was time for lilac.
However, by the time I was ready to make the syrup, it started to rain and didn’t stop for days. Considering the fact that it is advisable to collect healing herbs and flowers in dry weather, I could only wait and hope for another sunny morning.
While it was heavily raining outside, I tried to tidy up and organise our cellar, and find the old 5 later jars that we brought down from the attic during the renovation of the house. First I have put them outside, so rain could remove the dirt of decades, then washed them properly in the sink after. They are massive pieces, however one possibly had an invisible crack on the side, because it fall into small pieces when I tried to clean it. Fortunately, three pieces remained for me to make syrups, vinegar or ferment cucumber.
The set of jars was only one of the numerous treasures we have found in the attic. We discovered old magazines, demijohns, crates, school books and notebooks and an old pine chest that I wrote about in the recent blog post.
And a school certificate.
It belonged to my father’s cousin, Tibor and was issued by the village grammar school in 1942. I like its yellowed pages, the typical old-styled handwriting but I had the impression that the right thing to do is to send it to his son, Oliver who was born in Germany.
I was just about to send it at the post office, when I took a last look at the small booklet and I discovered the ‘ 14 life rules of a catholic child’ which was printed on the inside of the cover.
‘ I am sorry, Ildikó, I think I won’t post this envelop today’, I told the post officer and I returned home with the intention to share this part of the school certificate with you.
The certificate was filled between 1945 and 1950, in a period of time, when there were not too many things in life, that one could be certain about or believed in.
‘Keep order in life, and order will keep you alive’,my mother used to say and I remember it when reading the rules in this certificate. If the world turns upside down, order must be kept, which gives a sense of certainty. There is nothing special in these 14 rules, and maybe, that’s why they are timeless regardless of age or religion.
Keeping only the 6th, the 8th and 12th rules makes the world a better place.
Now and then.
Guidelines for life for a Catholic child
- Catholic children have a wash every morning, dress ups and comb themselves carefully and pray, as in the morning, as at noon and before going to bed.
- Before going to school they politely say Good bye to their parents and relatives. They leave house on time, to avoid being late.
- Before they enter the class room, they clean their shoes, take off their hat and greet others by saying: ‘Praised be Jesus Christ’
- They take their seat and read their lecture in silence. They wait for the the lesson to start or the time to leave for the church but don’t walk in and out of the room.
- On Sundays and festive they go to church with classmates, pray and sing, and behave exemplarily at any other religious rituals.
- They take care of cleanliness of the class room, the school yard and surroundings of the school building, especially the toilet. They throw away paper or any other garbage only at the designated spots. They protect school furniture and equipment, walls and fences. They walk on floors and stairs noiselessly.
- They listen to their teacher during lesson and they always obey their teachers.
- They treat their classmates with love and and goodwill. They don’t hurt each other, don’t mock or make fun of each other. Older ones set a good example to the younger ones, and brotherly support them in their work and keeping order.
- They don’t touch somebody else’s stuff. They don’t keep lost and found objects, but hand over to their teacher so he can give it back to its original owner.
- They leave school in queue, in pairs noiselessly. They don’t step out of the queue, they don’t scuffle or lounge. They don’t run after chariots and carriages, and don’t climb up on them. They behave well and politely on the street.
- They respect their religious and secular superiors, greet them politely with the Catholic greeting form. They confess their religion courageously any time.
- When they walk in forest and fields, they remember God who created everything. So they don’t catch birds, plunder nests, torture animals or damage trees.
- They don’t drink alcohol and don’t smoke. Both of them are poisons which not only kill body but also the soul.
- Children of school age cannot go to pubs, and parties. Instead, they do sport and play. That is what serves their soul and body.
Finally, maybe right before the last moment, the sun starts shining and I run out to collect a handful of lilacs to make my first experimental lilac syrup.
Although the recipe is in an experimental phase I decided to share my experiences in case any of you feel the same desperate urge to cut some flowers and run into the kitchen with them.
At the moment my syrup has been in the fridge for 2 days, and I will update the recipe with the result.
I read all recipes I could find in German, English and Hungarian. I studied different techniques, like soaking in cold water, infusing with hot syrup, soaking in cold syrup, and boiling after soaking. I plan to use the syrup for future projects so I need a recipe which can be stored longer than only a couple of weeks.
Finally I decided to make a sugar syrup, cooled it down, added citric acid, flowers and lemon slices and store it for 3-5 days in the fridge. Maria, my friend once offered my sparkling water with a dash of apple vinegar, and I found it surprisingly refreshing and tasty.
So out of curiosity and because I read a lot about the subject recently, I replaced citric acid with apple vinegar, which smell is a little bit stronger but gives the same acidity in taste as I expected.
8-10 lilac flowers
1200 g caster sugar
1500 ml water
1 organic lemon
30 g citric acid or 90 ml apple vinegar
Bring sugar and water to boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Let it cool down, then add citric acid (or vinegar). Wash and slice lemon. Shake the flowers a little bit in order to remove any insects but don’t wash them. Put the flowers to a big jar or pot and pour over the syrup. Add lemon slices and keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days. Stir it once or twice a day. If the syrup already has taken up the colour of the flowers completely, sieve it through a coffee filter, fill into bottles and keep it in a cold place.
✺✺✺✺Experiences after infuse time (update)✺✺✺✺
I sieved the syrup after 6 days of infusion and finally decided to fill the half of it directly into bottles, and bring the other half to boil and fill hot into the bottles and close immediately- for the sake of experimentation. The cold ones I am going to store in the fridge, the hot one in the larder. Beucase I didn’t have coffee filter at home, I simply used a sieve and piece of gauze instead. It was also easier to press the remaining liquid out of it.
From this recipes I got a little bit more than 2 liters of syrup.
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