There is a very large elder tree growing in my garden which exudes a plethora of white flowers every spring. If you are lucky enough to be near an elder tree as summer approaches then you can avail of the opportunity to make a beautiful drink from its elderflowers. The flower head resemble an umbrella and you need to gather as many as 50 heads from the tree. If the trees are small you might gather your crop of flowers from several trees. Elder trees often grow in clusters. Making the elderflower drink, usually referred to as elderflower cordial, is simplicity itself and it is one of the best home brewed drinks you can make. The best thing of all is that it is free and the elder tree produces a plentiful supply of flowers every year.
Along with the elderflower heads you will need some sugar, water, lemons and citric acid. The strength of the drink can be altered by changing the quantities of the ingredients. By changing the ingredients and steeping time it is possible to also make other drinks such as elderflower wine and champagne. Afterwards the finished elderflower cordial can be used in many dishes such as elderflower panna cotta (Italian dessert), gooseberry and elderflower fool, elderflower and lemon cheesecake as well as savory dish use. The savory uses for elderflower include the making of elderflower sauces to compliment meat dishes. Elderflower cordial is often used in cake making and makes a good substitute for wine in cake recipes.
How to prepare elderflower cordial
When the flowers have been gathered if is necessary to remove the heads from the stems. Each twig or stem should be shaken to remove any small bugs or debris caught up in the flower head. The tips of the flowers are then removed from the stalks by hand and the tiny flower heads are set aside for use in the cordial. You will require a large vat or container and into this you place the elderflowers with 2 ounces of the citric acid. On top of the flowers you pour 3 lbs of sugar and 4 sliced lemons. The final ingredient is the water which is boiling to melt the sugar. In total 2 pints of boiling water are added. The mixture is stirred to ensure that the sugar dissolves fully.
How to make elderflower cordial drink
With the mix in its container and the sugar melted all that’s needed now is to let in infuse overnight. Do not leave it for longer because the mixture will ferment and turn alcoholic. You may actually want to make elderflower champagne and if this is the case, then the longer period is acceptable. The following day with the mixture fully cooled it is time to decant into bottles. You can sterilize glass bottles beforehand in a heated oven so as to have them ready. The elderflower has to be strained to remove the flower and lemon pulp and this is best done by using a muslin cloth. Muslin is very fine mesh and only allows the liquid through. The muslin can be washed and reused on another occasion. The finished drink is a yellow green color and is very strong. It does need to be diluted before drinking.
Diluting elderflower cordial
The easiest way is to dilute with ordinary water but if you require a bit of fizziness then sparkling water is a wonderful additive. Either way it is a refreshing drink at any time but is most often used at mealtimes. Of late, I have used elderflower juice in fruit salads as a base liquid instead of the traditional orange juice as it make a refreshing change and gives the salad a unique twist.
If your preference is for an alcoholic drink then the elderflower concentrate can be diluted with wine. An elderflower martini and even elderflower cocktails can also be created by the more adventurous hosts.Elderflower timeThe elder trees produce their milky white flowers just after spring has passed and are considered to be one of the early summer signs. Gardeners have many such signal and signs and dates are good indicators for crops to be planted or harvested. St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional day to plant potatoes and this date (17th March) is an indicator that all harsh frosts have been avoided. The true summer sign is when the gardener can sit down to a meal of home grown vegetables and wash them down with a home made elderflower beverage. Bottled elderflower cordial can be kept unopened throughout the winter and is often opened on Christmas day.
The elder trees, which are of the Sambucus family grow almost everywhere and they are seldom seen standing singularly. The elder produces its small white flowers in big cluster heads. The flowers are easier to pick on a fine day and you might require a means of reaching the high blooms as the elders can be quite large. Superstition has it that one should never cut down an elder tree for fear that it will bring bad luck. Elder wood itself is considered to be lucky as are items made from elder.