This year, I missed the Hill Country display of bluebonnets. This makes me sad as I understand it was a banner year. But I do have a few trips to planned this summer, so I hope to see some color, such as the fields of lavender found this time of year. Yep, in that part of Texas as bluebonnets are to spring, lavender is to summer. While nothing can compare to a blanket of wildflowers, I’d say that the lavender is still pretty stunning.
Lavender is now in season, and if you were to take a drive through the Hill Country you might see row upon row of this light purple flower. But lavender hasn’t always grown in Texas.
Many years ago, Texan photographer Robb Kendrick was on assignment in the Provence region in France. While there, he was struck by the temporal and geographic similarities between the Hill Country and the Provence. He was also struck by the beauty of the lavender. When he and his wife returned to Texas they started the first commercial lavender farm outside Blanco, which spawned a new industry in the Hill Country.
For most of my life, my experience with lavender has been as a pleasant, soothing scent—something found in soaps or lotions. But when someone shared with me some Hill Country lavender honey a few years ago, I realized its potential for edible applications as well.
Sure, it has a floral flavor but it there are also hints of pine, similar to rosemary but not quite as intense. It pairs well with mustard for a savory sauce. It also makes a nice crust on pork. But I find that my favorite way to use it is in sweets.
Honey lavender ice cream is a cool, refreshing way to experience its flavor, especially as both the flower and the nectar give it a floral flavor. I like to add some lemon juice as its brightness balances out some of honey’s richness.
Dried Lavender can be found at many farmers markets. You can also get it through Penzey’s and other specialty spice markets. In New York, you can often get it at Westside Market and in Texas, you will find it at Central Market. But even if you can’t find lavender, don’t fret—you can order it online or substitute sage or rosemary.
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Honey lavender ice cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons dried edible lavender flowers
- 1/2 cup light honey
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a saucepan, simmer the cream and half-and-half on medium heat until warm, do not let it come to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the lavender to the pot, cover, and let steep for half an hour.
After the flowers have steeped, strain the liquid and discard the flowers. Stir into the cream the honey and heat on medium low until the honey has dissolved. Again, do not let liquid come to a boil.
Beat the egg yolks with the vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Stir into the eggs 1/2 cup of the warm liquid and then stir the eggs into the pot.
Heat this on medium low for 5 minutes or until it gets slightly thick. You’ll know it’s ready when it coats the back of your spoon. Cool in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Freeze and churn according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions. Will keep covered in the freezer for 2 weeks.
If you taste the custard before churning and find it’s not sweet enough for you, I suggest sweetening it more with sugar rather then honey as honey’s strong flavor can overpower the lavender.