I used this recipe here to make a syrup. Since I ended up picking a lot more than I needed, I decided to make an (alcoholic) elderflower liqueur as well with help from this recipe.
There are recipes out there that have you using citric acid, which helps deter the growth of mold and adds to the flavor. But we got word that the elderflowers were in bloom before I had time to buy some so I went with the above recipe instead. I picked so many, I ended up doubling the recipe.
First and foremost, make sure you know what you’re picking. Do research to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of elderflowers. Apparently, they can often be confused with hemlock, which is poisonous! Luckily, we’ve been picking in the same spot for years (my Great-Aunt’s backyard.)
Since you won’t be rinsing the flowers first, you want to avoid elderflower trees/bushes that are near roads because they can pick up car exhaust pollutants. The best time to pick is just before noon or before the hot afternoon sun. And be sure to use them within a couple hours of picking. When gathering, keep them in paper bags. Don’t overcrowd to avoid getting them bruised and smooshed.
The first thing to know is that only the flowers and berries of the elder tree are edible. Do not eat the leaves or the stems. Both contain cyanide (many seeds and pits do!) A little won’t hurt you, but ingesting an excessive amount can be harmful so you do want to remove as much as you can. (My brother didn’t know this and he always left the larger stems when he made his elderflower water and we are all still here.)
Some recipes suggest that you gently rinse your flowers before use while others don’t. I didn’t; it seems like you’d wash away that delicate fragrance. Instead each umbel got a good shake and once-over in search of bugs and other unwanted bits. Then I clipped the flowers into a bowl. This was probably the most time consuming bit of the whole experience. I think I sat for over an hour clipping the flowers off the stems.
Making the Syrup
With the flowers still in the big bowl, I added the zest and juice of eight lemons. In a large pot on the stove, I brought 2 quarts of water and 4 1/2 pounds of sugar to a boil. Once the mixture was boiling a while and the sugar was fully dissolved, I removed it from the heat and added the flower/lemon mixture, using a large spoon to fully submerge them in the liquid. Lay a towel over the top of the pot and set aside, inside at room temperature for about 3 days for the mixture to steep and marinate.
Next comes straining through muslin or a couple layers of cheese cloth. Do this a couple times as you want to remove as much pollen and itty bitty bits of debris as possible.
To keep excessive amounts of the syrup longer, I poured the syrup in sanitized glass canning jars and processed in a water bath for 10 minutes. If you’re making a small batch, it can simply be put in a jar in the fridge for up to one month. Otherwise, canned syrup should last a year in the pantry. (Once you open a jar, refrigerate it and use within one month.)
I mix about 1 to 2 tablespoons of syrup with about one cup of club soda. You can also drizzle the syrup on mixed fruit or over ice cream. Other options are only as limited as your imagination: anything that could use a little floral-ly/citrus-y sweetness! (I’m thinking of using some to bake with!)
I’ve had their Elderflower Sparkling Pressé. It’s a ready to drink Elderflower water. Although it’s very good, I think it’s a bit more sharp and less sweet than what we make. They also make other elderflower flavored pressés and cordials.
This one is probably more easily found. If you want some syrup you can mix with club soda (or other carbonated or flat water) to make a no-alcoholic drink like I did, Ikea’s little grocery store has an elderflower syrup translated and sold as Saft Fläder.
Finally, if you want an alcoholic liqueur, look for St. Germain. That is very good (and goes down a bit too smoothly!) There are all kinds of cocktail recipes you can Google but I like a little mixed in tonic water or a little to sip straight. I’m that easy!
I’m sure there are more elderflower flavored products out there, these are just the ones I know and have tried. DO you know of any more? Have you ever had anything featuring the elderflower?