Elderflower Champagne and Elderflower Cordial


One of the sure signs of early summer with a promise of warm summer days to come is the billowing of the elderflowers in our hedgerows. Down here in Otago our hedgerows are blowsy with elderflower and hawthorn.  We still have the remnants of those hedgerows in our area and they are a precious source of shelter and fodder for insects, birds and animals – and us humans!   I look at elderflower and think… elderflower champagne and cordial followed in autumn by berry wine and nutritious cordials. In fact, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas now without enjoying a delicious glass of delicate bubbly elderflower summer delight. Here are a couple of easy recipes for Elderflower Champagne and Cordial.

Picking Elderflowers.

Like all herbs, gather the flowers on a warm dry day and go for the ones with a mix of some open and some buds. It would be hard to pick them all but make sure you leave some for the next round of delicious harvesting – the berries in Autumn. Mine usually come with little black insects. Shake them off. I also leave them on the outside table on a piece of newspaper for a while and they all seem to run off. I don’t think the odd little insect is going to do you any harm but strain well anyway.

Elderflower Champagne.

For this recipe you will need 7 large Elderflower heads –about the size of a lunch plate or saucer, a clean plastic bucket and some bottles. Start with recycled small sized fizzy drink bottles and lids. (750ml or less) I also save those small champagne bottles for individual servings. Don’t use ordinary glass bottles for any kind of fermented drink – they are likely to explode.

  • Dissolve 500g sugar in 2 litres of hot water in your clean plastic bucket.
  • Add 2 and a half litres of cold water.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of white or cider vinegar plus the juice of 2 lemons.
  • Add flowers
  • Cover with a teatowel and leave for 24 hours.
  • After the 24 hours is up, strain through a muslin cloth and bottle.
  • Leave in a cool dark place for 6 weeks.

Elderflower Cordial

There are a few variations on this recipe – the thing you are aiming for is to allow the delicate flavour of the elderflower to infuse in your syrup.

  • 25 elderflower heads
  • A couple of lemons and an orange– finely grate zest and squeeze juice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp of citric acid.
  • Put the flowers and citrus zest in a clean plastic bucket or a large bowl and mix together. Pour over 1.5 litres of boiling water.
  • Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
  • Strain through muslin bag or jelly cloth and into a saucepan.
  • Stir in the sugar, the juice and the citric acid. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Carefully pour into sterilized glass bottles.

You don’t need the citric acid but it helps to keep it longer.  Once you have opened your bottle keep it in the fridge. You can also pour into smaller plastic bottles and freeze. Try freezing in ice-block trays to add to drinks etc. Would look gorgeous with some elderflower added – or blue borage. Elderflower goes well with English Gooseberries which are ready soon. Add some to any recipe to enhance the flavour.

Six ways to reduce Christmas induced Stress.

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December is upon us and as we all know it can be one of the busiest most stressful months of the year. Here in NZ it can be all the more complicated as we combine it with our summer holiday period and often the end of the working year – so lots to do! Here are a few tips to help things run smoothly so take a couple of minutes to read through.

Step 1. Have a planning meeting with yourself:First thing to do is to sit down with yourself and a piece of paper and write down all those things going round in your head that you keep remembering you are supposed to do but forget because another thing-to-do has taken its place.   What do you need to do this month? Just write it all down – doesn’t have to be in order. You can use headings if you like. Here are some that might be on your list.Christmas – Presents – Who?

Christmas – Cards – thankyou gifts etc – Who?

Christmas Dinner Menu – Guests

Christmas Hospitaltiy – who’s coming – beds etc.

Holiday /Camping

End of school year – prizegivings, gift for teachers etc

End of work year etc

Step 2. Eliminate or delegate.Take a look at your list and work out what you actually need to do, what you can delegate to others and what you can actually eliminate without hurting others.   Delegating who brings what for Christmas dinner for example –but you will need to make sure everyone is clear in what is expected of them. Don’t assume Aunty is going to bring the pudding if you haven’t asked her. You don’t have to go to every party or event if that is too much for you – choose which one. The early you can get in with your requests or apologies the better.

Step3. Put a time frame around it. Put actual dates into your calendar/phone/diary and work backwards from that date. For each event action or activity write down everything you need to do in order to make it on the date scheduled. This will become your plan of action and schedule this action into your diary and then follow the plan. Look for gaps where you can do the preperation work or make a phone call. What can I do now? Can I make things and put in the freezer? Do I need to organise a baby sitter for 3 weeks time? When do I need to post this parcel to Australia? Do I need to let my boss know I need to leave work early to make it to prize-giving on time? (Do I need to let my husband know weeks in advance so he can organise his life as well?) Pre-think, pre- plan and be pre-pared.

Step 4; Put a budget around your plan. Self expanatory –don’t get carried away but decide well before hand what you can spend. This is a whole big topic but in a nutshell – make stuff and if you buy gifts – buy local where you can and support our wonderful crafts, artisans and talented business women.

Step 5: Get your systems sorted. It’s often the small things that are stressful – not being able to find things such as addresses for cards, phone numbers, Christmas decorations or cookie cutters from last year. Make that the next thing you do. Collect together what you need to make those jobs run smoothly. Gift wrapping – make up a box full of gift wrapping tools. There are some good systems out there but get scissors, sellotape, paper, ribbon, bows – everything you think you will need all ready and together now.

Step 6. Learn from this year. And if your goal for next year is to be more organised and less stressed – then turn each of these exercises into a system that you can follow for next time.