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.
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.
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.
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.