On Father’s Day weekend, we got a phone call from my Great Aunt saying the Elderflower was in bloom. We don’t have any bushes on our property here but luckily she does, and they are set far off the road, which is important for elderflowers because they are a harvest you don’t wash or rinse.
I’m sure a lot of people here in the US have heard of elderberry. But elderflower is less common. It’s big in the UK or Northern Europe. It’s a shame we American’s don’t utilize it more since it offers such a warm, floral scent and flavor.
I’ve talked a bit about elderflower in previous posts (here and here) so I didn’t want to reiterate myself too much but probably will since I am on a bit of an elderflower high and have learned some new things. This is my second year taking the reigns of the spring elderflower. Like I said in one of previous posts, my brother used to be in charge, making a carbonated elderflower water. When I took over last year, I went with a simpler (less-risk-of-explosion no-need-to-cork-bottles) method by making a syrup.
Both last year and this year, I used this recipe as a general guide. Last year’s batch turned out better but I had nearly twice as many elderflowers and less sugar. (Looking back, I think I doubled everything but the sugar last year. This year I used the full amount of sugar.) Still, this year’s is delicious regardless. Both years I had trouble straining the syrup. Although it’s a thin, liquidy syrup it is still thick enough to take forever when going through a coffee filter. Next year, I’d like to try The River Cottage Cookbook method of steeping the flowers in hot water first, then straining, adding sugar and boiling to create a syrup. I want to perfect my syrup recipe but the beauty of a seasonal harvest is that I will have to until next year to try again.
It’s actually very simple to make an elderflower syrup, here are the basic guidelines:
If you don’t want to make the syrup or don’t have access to the flowers, you can still buy store bought varieties. (Saft Flader from Ikea, D’Arbo Elderflower syrup, or an alcoholic liqueur by St. Germain are the ones I can think of off hand. Plus Bottle Green has a lot of sparkling cordials and presses that are delicious.)
So how and where should you use elderflower syrup? Well, the simplest way is to add some to a sparkling beverage like club soda, seltzer water, tonic water, etc, to make a soda of sorts. Often, I see the ratio of 1 part syrup to 5 parts water which is a good springboard but it depends on your taste preference or how sweet your syrup is. It’s also common in cocktails. A simple Google search should provide you with plenty of inspiration. It is also great drizzled over not-too-sweet berries. And some suggestions I’ve seem include adding it to homemade whipped cream or even drizzled over ice cream.
Baked goods are possibility and again, a simple search will turn up some recipes. I actually tried an almond cake once, sweetened with elderflower syrup but it didn’t quite turn out right. You can bake a cake that isn’t too sweet then poke holes in the top and pour the syrup over it and let it soak in.
This year, my favorite way to use it was an elderflower sorbet! I got the idea from The River Cottage Cookbook. In the directions they basically have you making the syrup and using that straight to make sorbet. I tried this on Father’s Day but everyone thought it was much too sweet, so I watered it down.