Elderflowers come from the Elder tree which looks like a a shrub or small tree usually hanging about on the side of country roads, hedgerows and in woodlands. From late May and early June, you’ll see fluffy white masses of tiny white flowers hanging in sprays which then later, develop into purple elderberries in late Summer and early Autumn. These are good to make vitamin C rich Elderberry Syrup, which I will post later in the year.
It takes bit of effort, however it is definitely worth it and you will be hooked once you have tried it. If you prefer something a little stronger then you could then make the Elderflower Vodka, which can be kept and used later at Samhain/ Halloween.
The best time to collect Elderflowers is early in the morning, when their scent is being pushed out to attract bees and other pollinators. You will then have a more scented perfume to your creations. Give the blooms a shake before you place in your collection bags to encourage bugs to fall out.
You will need;
- 8 large Elderflower blooms, approx 6 inches in damper or 16 smaller ones.
- 3 litre bottles of spring or water. Keep the bottles for later.
- 450g of honey or 675g of sugar.
- 235ml of cider vinegar alternatively the juice and rind of 2 lemons. plus 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
- 1 large pan or bowl to take 8 pints of water and allow for the blooms.
- A clean tea towel or muslin cloth to cover the pan or bowl.
- The Plastic Spring water bottles that you took the water from) or ceramic or glass Kilner style bottles with a lid with a catch.
- Leave the blooms on a clean kitchen counter or table top for an hour or so to allow any bugs to crawl out. Collect them in a cup and place back outside.
- Do not wash the flowers, you need the natural yeast to create the fermentation.
- In a large saucepan, place the sugar or honey and two pints of boiling water in the pan or bowl. Stir the contents until the sugar/honey has dissolved.
- Next add 6 litres of water to the pan/bowl and then combine the vinegar and or lemon juice and rind. Place the elderflowers into the mixture and cover with the tea bowl or muslin for 48 hours. By then you should have a frothy foam collecting on the surface of the water, if not, then you can add a pinch of baking yeast and leave for another 48 hours. Agitate the mixture a couple of times to get the fermentation going.
- Once you have fermentation, strain the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin or a very fine meshed sieve, into a jug to that you can then pout he clear liquid into your bottles. Make sure there is minimum of one inch spacing in the neck of the bottle from the rim down.
- Plastic bottles are good to use as they allow for expansion. This is quite volatile stuff so it is best be stored in plastic bottles. Wine bottles and corks are not suitable, as they will either explode or the cork can be pushed out.
- The bottles need to be left at room temperature and for one week AND it is essential that you “ burp” the bottles each day, by opening very briefly to allow air to escape. If you do not to do this, they will explode.
- After one week the bottles can be kept in the fridge and again burp the bottles, regularly for another week.
You will need;
- 10-12 small elderflower heads
- 1/2 the grated zest of 1 lemon
- 75 grams of sugar or honey
- I litre (1000ml) of vodka
- 1 large Kilner jar
- Muslin cloth
- Sterilised bottles or the vodka bottle.
- Leave the blooms on a clean kitchen counter or table top to allow any bugs to crawl out. Collect them in a cup and place back outside.
- Gently take the stems and cut off the main long stalk to the base of the flower and then gently place them into a large Kilner.
- Next add the sugar or honey and the vodka, making sure that the flowers are covered and entirely submerged under the vodka.
- Screw the lid on tight and place in a dark cupboard, I use the airing cupboard, for 4-6 weeks.
- Once it has tuned a golden yellow, then strain your mixture through a muslin cloth placed over a bowl or jug. The liquid needs to be completely free of any remaining blooms. Taste it and see if you need to add more sugar or dilute with more vodka if too sweet. Strain again if you need to and then pour into sterilised bottles. it then needs to go back on the cupboard to mature for a couple of months. Serve on its own, in cocktails or with soda water and ice.