The elderflower season is short but sweet. On these few days in June when the trees blossom their scent spreads with the wind, and the freshness after a rain is augmented by that distinct smell released by the droplets hitting the flower heads. The allusiveness is probably part of the allure. It’s a scent and taste so connected with a certain time of year; the end of the school year and the midsummer celebrations, in short; the beginning of summer.
The other day I made the by now annual collecting of elderflower; as always with foraging make sure you know what you are picking, that it’s allowed and do so away from roads with heavy traffic. Then it’s off to the kitchen!
I do not rinse them as some do, I just give them a proper shake to make sure no bugs make it into cordials etc. So far this year I’ve made vinegar, cordial and liqueur.
This is a recipe I got from the oft mentioned Frances Bissell. It’s very simple; add flower heads to white vinegar. Bissell recommends using 2-3 flower heads for a small bottle of white wine vinegar( which I’ve interpreted as the 37.5 cl ones). She thinks that the flowers should be replaced after a week but I have never done that because of time and availability. I find that infusing the vinegar for two weeks give a good result and supermarket vinegar is just fine. I usually make a few small bottles as it’s the kind of thing I don’t use loads but love giving away to culinary mined friends. I use it mostly when making sallad dressing or mayonnaise that’s gonna be served with seafood. Elderflower and salmon go very well together.
I’m not gonna give you an exact recipe as the internet is full of them. It’s well worth making as mixed with water or mineral water it’s a wonderful thirst quencher to say nothing of the possibilities as far as cocktails are concerned. I will say this; play around with the choice of citrus fruit. I’ve used lemons and limes which is quite traditional but also grapefruit peels and those of oranges. I’ve used bergamot syrup instead of sugar with great results. There is room for improvising as far as that is concerned.
I use vodka as the base. The thing is to pour a a couple of centiliters (like 4 cl) from the bottle, then add all the elderflower and just a bit of simple syrup* (like 5 cl) as it helps the flavor develops. Then use the poured vodka to seal the whole thing. Elderflower that are in contact with air will oxidize and turn brown, giving the whole thing a bi-taste and less then savory colour. Then it should sit on the window sill for a week, a two three more weeks in the back of the cupboard. Not until it’s done do I really mix it with syrup to the desired level of sweetness. The flowers will turn a little brown and give the vodka a slightly yellow colour but usually that just looks nice. Makes it artisanal looking or something. Cordial is also a shade of yellow and no one minds that?
I don’t know if the seal is visible but there is one. Since it’s there feel free to open the bottle up and smell it during the time it infuses. Depending on how much elderflower you add it will take different amounts of time. I make a strong one, I can always dilute it with plain vodka in the end.
*I refer here to simple syrup made with caster sugar and water. It’s easier to use then pouring caster sugar into the bottle as I don’t have to shake or turn the bottle during the time it infuses to make sure everything blends.
Hopefully this can be of some help to someone.