“Is that elderflower?” I wondered, while out on a walk with my partner one late spring eve. The tree was just off a main road by a bicycle path, near where highschool kids smoke pot and people walk their dogs.
Elderflower is a bit tricky to find. It grows wild in spring, dying out toward summer. Keep an eye out for a bushy tree of small white flowers in any parks, nature strips, yards or scrub you happen to be in. Up close, the flowers have four tiny white petals with light-green stems. The leaves are about as stock-image as you can get, think and green. Once you’ve confirmed your find, come back with scissors to claim your prize. You can hold onto your discovery tightly, or share it with friends or public forager groups.
Needless to say I pocketed the flowers as quickly as I could (especially since the bush was already dying from the looming summer heat), and refined a recipe for a delicious cordial that would preserve these flowers’ hard-to-find and beautiful taste well into summer.
Yields 2 big bottles. Takes 15-30min to cook, plus a wait overnight.
- 1.25 kg white sugar
- 3 medium lemons (washed)
- 50 grams citric acid*
- 15 large elderflower heads, stalks trimmed
- Using a small knife pare the zest off the lemons in strips, then juice the lemons. Reserve the squeezed lemon halves for later.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and give the flowers a dip to wash off any bugs or dirt. Gently shake off excess water and set aside on paper towels.
- Pour 750ml of water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and heat on low (without boiling) until the sugar dissolves, stirring every now and then. Once the sugar has dissolved and thickened into a syrup bring it to the boil, then turn off the heat.
- Add the elderflowers, reserved lemon halves, zest, lemon juice and citric acid to the pot of syrup. Stir well. Allow to cool.
- Once cooled, pop a lid on the pot and leave to steep overnight.
- Now your syrup has become elderflower cordial! Strain it into sterilised bottles and refrigerate to store.
* NOTE: The addition of citric acid ‘…stops the cordial from fermenting, so that it keeps for years….The acid not only acts as a preservative but adds a sharp tang, too.’ – Tom Parker Bowles, Daily Mail Online.
USES FOR ELDERFLOWER SYRUP
– Elderflower cordial: Just add water and a few ice cubes for a refreshing summertime drink.
– Dessert syrup – You can also use it undiluted as a syrup for desserts such as pavlova or ice cream to add a lemony highlight, or fold through whipped cream.
– Honey substitute: Drizzle on yoghurt, figs or even use in salad dressings.