Three years ago there was a lovely feature story in the Dom Post one Saturday regarding elderflower trees. The author wrote beautifully about her childhood, then gave recipes for elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne. I wish I'd clipped the whole article rather than just writing down the recipes.
Elderflower cordial is one of the most refreshing drinks you can have in summertime. It tastes like a beautiful, carefree summer day you are experiencing while wearing a floaty dress and straw hat. It is just lovely. It is great with soda water, lemonade or vodka. Once you have made the cordial you can also use the cordial as an essence, flavouring sorbet or panacotta.
Making this is so satisfying. It looks pretty while it is being made. I've got a bit of a production line going as I'm making small bottles to give as gifts to all of the Sweetheart's creche teachers next week. I didn't have enough stored bottles (they are all full of grapefruit cordial and in various households in the region) so I bought some from New Zealand's premier bottle/ jar/ closure supplier! They are in the street opposite where I live. If you want to buy one bottle or a thousand they will do it. I could have purchased dozens - particularly of the gorgeous jam jars!
Elderflower champagne, the second recipe, is also very charming. Elderflower heads can sometimes (and sometimes not) be filled with a natural yeast. For this reason it is quite delightful for making brewed drinks.
To those of you reading this who know where I live: the elderflower tree is open for business!!! First in, first served.
20 Elderflower heads
4 cups caster sugar
1.5L boiling water
2 lemons (juiced and sliced)
1 orange (sliced or chopped)
50g citric acid (this is quite a bit - about quarter of a packet).
Wash the flowers to remove dirt, bugs and spiderwebs! There are the smallest black bugs on these, particularly later in the season. Elderflower are best picked after there has been sunlight on them for a couple of hours - and the cordial best made within an hour of picking the flowers.
Put the sugar in a heatproof large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir and leave to cool. Add the fruit, citric acid and flowers. Leave for 24hrs in a cool spot. Stir occasionally. Strain through a muslin and bottle. Refrigerate.
To serve: one part cordial to four parts water/ vodka.
4 or more large heads of elderflower
1kg of sugar or honey
10L cold water
4 TBSP white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried yeast (optional)
Wash and juice the lemons. Peel off rind thinly. Put flowers, lemon juice and rind in a large clean container. Slowly add sugar and vinegar, do not crush flowers. Pour in water and gently stir. Cover and stand for 24hrs, stirring every six hours. If no signs of fermentation, add yeast and stand another day. Strain and bottle (old soft drink bottles). It is ready in two weeks. Store in a cool place.