Elderflower flower season differs depending on where you live in the world. I am in the Langhe Hills in Piemonte, Italy, and the season here started in full swing at the beginning of May, some early arrivals towards the end of April. My mother, who is in Surrey, England, sees the season mid-May to mid-June. There is a window of opportunity wherever you are to make delicious elderflower treats for yourself and your loved ones. The best part is they are so easy to spot if you like near wild areas. Elderflower flowers are large man hand size clusters of creamy white flower heads growing on green bushes often located around trees and scrub land, for the most part they are wild but you can grow them yourself. As with all things wild, I think it is best to take some expert advice on confirming if the bush you have identified is Elderflower, as I did when moving here. Confusingly Elderflower is called Sambuca in Italian, which threw me, until I used Google search for a few minutes to re-establish that I was still dealing with Elderflower. Elderflower also provides berries later in summer, which can be used for other purposes, ones I will investigate this year and report back on.
Best picked in the morning and only pick the heads that are pure creamy white with no dying brown flowers, as the brown dead flowers will taint the taste.
Don’t pick the whole bush otherwise you will limit production the following year and also there will be no Elderflower berries in the summer! Rule of thumb is to pick no more than a third of the bush from different sections.
You might need to take a branch pulling implement to get to the best flower heads, I used a fork hoe to pull out of reach branches down to me, Elderflower has a frustrating habit in growing in out of reach areas or across a stream with no bridge!
Elderflower Cordial Recipe – makes 6 x 200ml bottles
25 Elderflower heads – large hand size if possible
2 lemons roughly sliced (some prefer more lemon for a more tart Elderflower cordial)
2 pints of boiling water
2 lbs of caster sugar (yes it’s a lot of sugar but this is a cordial with a 5:1 water – cordial ratio for drinks so it’s not too bad)
Step 1. Collect the Elderflower heads (you don’t want to leave them cut too long without using them, as they will start to die and no longer be fresh for the cordial
Step 2. Boil the water on a stove in a large saucepan, take off heat and dissolve all the sugar in it and stir until dissolved then allow to cool.
Step 3. While you wait for the water to cool, which can take a couple of hours, this is a good time to trim the Elderflower heads. I trim as close to the flowers as possible, to get rid of most of the stalks, this is a bit tedious but if you can get help many hands will make light work of this! I have read that the long green stalks of are not to be added to the cordial so I think it is important to trim close to the flower.
Step 4. Using a large pan with lid, or a large plastic container (I use a homebrew small plastic barrel) pour the cold water/sugar syrup into the container, add the lemons, and the elderflowers.
Step 5. Cover the pan or container tightly and leave for 48-72 hours. (If you leave it longer it will start to ferment, as elderflower contains natural yeasts and you will get slightly fizzy elderflower cordial!
Step 6. Strain the elderflower juice into a bowl through a muslin bag, or regular sieve, and give the elderflowers a good squeeze to get the last drops out.
Step 7. Rinse out the storage plastic container, or pan, and dry with a clean towel and pour the strained liquid back into it and cover tightly and leave for 48 hours.
Step 8. Siphon the liquid to leave sediment behind, or pour slowly into a sterilised measuring jug with lip to keep sediment behind.
Step 9. Pour the siphoned liquid into the sterilised bottles you are using for the cordial.
Step 10. Drink and enjoy.
My understanding is that this will keep best in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
I once had this in France with Cremant sparking wine and it was divine! Add to Prosecco,
or add to cocktails and of course good fresh cold water, ice and a slice! Best ration is 5:1 ie 5 parts prosecco to 1 part elderflower etc.
Clare, 41, living the 'dolce vita' in Piemonte in the Langhe Hills. This new blog is dedicated to the delicious food and drink of the Italian Piedmont region. To read more about our new life in the Langhe we have a life in Piemonte blog here