Preserving cherry blossoms for fancy sparkling wine garnishes

March 11 2015 | Guest post by queenyfm

preserving cherry blossoms

I've finally made preserved cherry blossoms — both the sweet and salty cherry blossoms — to serve them with sparkling wine at a party. They do not float under water, but on the surface, and neither of them really affects the taste much. But if you haven't tried the sparkling wine without them in first, you wouldn't even notice.

Here's how I preserved the cherry blossoms…

Shio-sakura (salty cherry blossoms)

Shio sakura are usually used for several Japanese dishes. They can also be used for decorating dishes, cakes, whatever. One Japanese wedding tradition is for the bride and groom to drink a tea brewed from shio sakura. You can also put a cherry blossom in each champagne flute so that it floats in the sparkling wine.

What you'll need:

  • 100g cherry blossoms
  • 50 ml shiro ume-su. If you can't get your hands on ume-su (I couldn't!), you can use a 20% brine. Meaning it's a 5:1 mix. 50ml water, 10g salt.
  • 16g salt — do not use less than 16g salt, even if you don't have 100g cherry blossoms. For example, I had 50g blossoms, therefore needed only 25ml brine, but still 16g salt! If you have more than 100g, please use more salt.
  • 1 freezer bag, and device to fasten it closed
  • (optional: cats to watch your every step so you don't make any mistakes)

Tutorial:

Step 1: Collect the blossoms. Unfortunately, you can't use just any cherry blossoms, it has to be filled, pink blossoms from Japanese cherry trees. From what I understand, the variety "Prunus serrulata" is best (I actually don't know what trees I used, though, since they are in a park). It turned out to be important to collect only slightly-opened blossoms, not ones which were fully in bloom. those fully blooming tend to lose their petals during the process. You'll have the biggest chance of success with trees that are 50%-70% in bloom. Keep the green stems attached and the blossom clusters together!

Step 2: Wash the blossoms. That is especially important if the trees are near a road. You'll want to wash the road dirt off, before you prepare them. And, of course, there will be little insects. Be careful, though — I put them in a sifter and let water run over them, carefully shifting them around a bit.

Step 3: Dry them. They need to be as dry as possible, so best use a salad spinner. If you don't have one, you can wrap them in a towel and spin them in it. Another way to dry them: take some paper towels, place the blossoms on them, spread them a bit, take some more paper towels, place them on the blossoms and GENTLY push.

This is what they looked like after 2-5 days in the fridge.
This is what they looked like after 2-5 days in the fridge.

Step 4: Put those blossoms in a freezer bag, add the salt and brine, and gently shake it to spread the mixture. You can also gently knead the blossoms, but be careful not to crush them. Squeeze the air out of the freezer bag and fasten it. Put the bag in the fridge for two days or more. (Traditional Japanese shio sakura are pickled for up to six months!) I took them out once a day to shake/knead them a little to make sure the brine was evenly spread. This is optional, though.

Drying cherry blossoms in the oven

Step 5: Dry them. After waiting two days or more, the time has come to dry them. The recipe, with which I worked, said: dry them for three days in a shadowy place. Well, we have neither garden nor balcony, and it was raining. Therefore, I dried them in the oven. I spread them on a baking tray, making sure no blossom was sticking to another. That is work! Depending on how many blossoms you have, it can take up some time. You'll have one big blop of blossoms mashed together, you need to separate them from each other.

drying cherry blossoms in the oven 2I had the oven at 50°C with circulating air, the door was slightly left open. Now just wait, it might take up some hours for them to fully dry (and you'll want them to be fully dried out, otherwise they might start to mildew). You can turn them around from time to time, it will fasten the process, but they'll dry up just fine without turning them.

shio sakura

Step 6: After drying them, you need to weigh them again. Depending on their weight, you'll add 20% salt. (I actually skipped that and just added some more salt.) Then store them in a mason jar, or plastic can, in a dark, cool place. The fridge is fine. You can also freeze them. Just make sure to gently squeeze out the air of the freezer bag.

You can also make sweetly pickled cherry blossoms

What you'll need:

  • 100g cherry blossoms
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 45g sugar
  • 1 freezer bag, and a device to fasten it closed

Tutorial:

Follow step 1 to step 3 outlined above.

Step 4: Put the blossoms in a freezer bag, add sugar and lemon juice, shake it, and knead them gently to spread the mixture. Again, be careful to not crush them.

This is the frozen lemon juice/sugar mixture. you can see how it turned a light pink.
This is the frozen lemon juice/sugar mixture. you can see how it turned a light pink.

Step 5: This step is to soften the blossoms and make them more edible. Place the bag in 70°C warm water for five minutes. The water mustn't be warmer and they shouldn't stay in longer. Be careful that the water can't enter the bag. I didn't have a thermometer, so I had to guess the water temperature. I boiled it with an electric kettle, but not till it actually boiled. Then I let it cool with the blossoms in it.

frozen cherry blossoms

Step 6: Fasten the bag after squeezing out the air and put it in the freezer. yes, freezer, not fridge. that way they keep their beautiful pink color. Done.

Sweet cherry blossoms are used for several sweet dishes.We will use them for the sparkling wine. What will you use yours for?

    • i haven't tried that (yet) since i didn't have one on hand last year. i'm planning to try it this year, since i don't see a reason why it wouldn't work. the original recipe calls for air-drying them in a shadowy place…the oven worked just fine, though…and i guess so would a dehydrator 🙂 it's just not the traditional japanese way to do it 😉

    • actually, all cherry blossoms are edible (i wouldn't recommend eating too many, though, they rather are garnish and don't taste too great, not bad, but they don't make me crave them), but you will need japanese cherry blossoms for preserving. you know those beautiful, pink trees? the flowers will have to look like: https://fablesandflora.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/cherry-blossom-cluster-low-res.jpg
      it's a decorative, flowering cherry tree, it won't have edible cherries in summer. you can't use flowers from a fruit-wielding tree, because they are even more delicate and will fall apart. they also don't have the flavour as japanese trees.
      fun fact: japanese cherry trees are connatural to almond trees. that's why you might notice a slight almond aroma (which made me freak until i found out)

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