By Kim Robson:
It’s summertime, and our elderberry bushes are flowering. We’ve covered uses for elderberries, specifically the healing properties of elderberry syrup for coughs and sore throats, but what about the fragrant blossoms?
Elderflower syrup is rich in vitamin C, making it suitable for treating runny noses caused by colds or allergies, according to Michael Vertolli, an herbalist with Vitality Magazine. Elderflower is also an antiviral and an immune stimulant, and has been used to reduce fevers and soothe coughs.
Elderflowers in Europe and in North America typically bloom from late spring until early summer, but timing will vary in local microclimates. Harvest them when they are a rich cream color, before they turn pure white. Pick the flowers early in the morning before the sun hits them. Choose flower heads with buds that are fully open but not turning brown. Snip off entire sprays and carefully place them in a bag. The pollen adds to the flavor, so transport them gently. Use them within a couple hours of picking. Don’t wash them, but do look them over and remove any insects.
- 30-40 elderflower sprays
- 3 lemons, sliced
- 8 cups water
- 8-½ cups granulated sugar (or substitute a natural sugar)
- 4 Tbsp. citric acid (look for powdered citric acid in the canning aisle)
Place elderflowers in a nonreactive container and top with lemon slices. Make sure you have enough room for about double your liquid volume, for swirling. Bring 8 cups of water with the sugar to boil in a large pot, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Carefully pour liquid over the lemon slices and elderflowers. Stir well, cover container, and let sit in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days, stirring daily. After 3-5 days, strain the syrup into clean containers. Discard solids. Store syrup in refrigerator or freezer.
To serve, pour sparking water over 1 ounce of syrup in a glass. Top with ice. Throw in fresh seasonal berries, mint, or cucumber slices for a refreshing summer drink — or add a shot of vodka to make a cocktail! Or you can top the syrup with champagne. Or drizzle the syrup over vanilla ice cream.
Boil water. Place 2-4 fresh elderflower sprays (or 2 tsp. dried elderflowers) in a teapot. Pour hot water over the flowers. Cover teapot and steep flowers about 10 minutes if fresh, or 5 minutes if dried. Strain the flowers and serve the tea hot. Sweeten as desired, but the tea will have a natural sweetness of its own.
Sparkling Elderflower Wine
- 4 cups sugar
- 8 elderflower sprays
- Zest and juice of 4 lemons
- ½ tsp yeast nutrient (may be optional)
- 5-gram packet Champagne yeast (if needed)
Dissolve sugar in 2 quarts hot water in a fermenting bucket, then top with 3 quarts cold water. Allow mixture to cool. Add elderflower sprays, lemon zest and juice, and the yeast nutrient. You can skip the yeast if you like, as elderflowers have their own natural wild yeasts. Leave to ferment in a cool dark place for 3 days.
If you didn’t add yeast and fermentation has not started after 3 days, then add a packet of champagne yeast. After 6 days of fermentation, strain through cheesecloth into a clean fermenting bucket. Cover and leave for a few hours for the sediment to settle. Siphon into bottles. You can release excess pressure by burping the bottle tops, but this can be a little tricky! To be safe, store the bottles in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. If not, drink it right away.
Elderflower Ice Cream
- 1 large egg
- 3 oz. (or ⅜ cup) raw cane sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream (35% – 40% fat)
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup elderflower syrup (see recipe above)
Whisk egg in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in sugar, then continue whisking for another minute until well blended. Add cream, milk, and elderflower syrup and whisk to blend. Pour into ice cream maker with the paddle running. Transfer to a tub and store in freezer.