Elderflowers: The Fragrance of Summer

There is a heavenly scent in the air. Is it the fragrance of summer? As I walk the few paces along the footpath next to our garden  the answer is revealed. The elderflowers are opening!

I wish I could make perfume out of it, but I know the next best thing. I can drink it!

Elderflower Cordial

I usually make the syrup first, so that it can cool while I go out foraging in the woods. I put on long trousers and long sleeves. I take my bucket and gardening sheers. And before going out the back gate I spread out an old yellow tablecloth near the back door…

After fighting my way through stinging nettles almost as tall as myself, I inhale deeply and start snipping. Only the biggest, most aromatic flower heads fall into my bucket, which will still smell of the flowers days later. Snip, snip. I dawdle a little, deep in the woods, invisible to anyone walking the footpath. A moment of peace and fragrance!

My bucket brimming, I return home to the yellow tablecloth outside my back door and spread the flower heads out, shaking them a little. Within seconds all the little flies crawl out onto the yellow surface. I don’t need to wash the flowers now.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 litre water
  • 1kg white sugar
  • 18 elderflower heads
  • 1 large lemon, organic, sliced
  • 30g citric acid

Mix the sugar with the water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Collect the elderflowers in good weather, preferably around midday when their aroma is most intense. Do NOT wash the flowers, but shake them and spread on a yellow cloth or paper until the insects have all come out! Remove as much of the stem as possible without breaking up the flowers too much. Put them in a large bowl and place the lemon slices on top. Sprinkle over the citric acid and then pour the cooled syrup over the flowers. Cover and leave to stand for 24 hours or even a couple of days. Stir occasionally.

Finally sieve and then strain through a very fine muslin cloth into sterilized bottles or jars. Stored in the refrigerator, the syrup can be kept for several months or even a year.

Drink diluted with chilled water, or add to sparkling wine. I also use it in desserts and in the glaze on top of my strawberry flan. ( I just had enough left from last year for my first strawberry flan this spring).

Another way to preserve the aroma of elderflowers is in alcohol…  😉

Recipe for Elderflower Liqueur coming soon!