Saturday, 31 May 2008

Elderflowers - aka summer begins

Lately, my few days off have coincided with rainy/cloudy weather. Not a big deal, generally, but this is elderflower season. Sun is essential when picking elderflowers - there is some scientific reason i believe having something to do with nector of something, but from experience - the smell's just all wrong without sunshine.And it's all about the smell.

But today we had the hoped-for congruence of sun and (free) Saturday, and we set off to forage as soon as stomachs and hangovers would allow. Our haul was impressive, and there were still many unopened flower heads on the trees so I foresee at least one more run before the season ends. Of course, greed does not pay - every flower head picked is one less berry-head - and while elderflower champagne is sublime, elderberry cordial is a basic necessity of life.

The stems and bark of the elder tree are poisonous, and once you get home with your stash of flowerheads, you need to pull off all of the tiny flowers - easier than the berries, but still the worst part of the job. After that it's so simple it's laughable.

We have a batch each of elderflower wine, elderflower champagne, and elderflower cordial going now - and the kitchen smells amazing. The wine and the cordial are new ones for me, but the champagne we made last year - and talk about bang for buck! We even had offers to buy our remaining stocks after one party. Here's a basic recipe:

Elderflower Champagne

(obviously not really champagne - not even alcoholic - though the elderflowers have some natural yeast so perhaps just slightly)

9 liters water
1 kg sugar
10-15 elderflower heads (stems removed - good luck with that!)
3 lemons, sliced, seeds removed
4 tbsp white wine vinegar

boil water, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
cool - add flowers, lemons, vinegar

leave 2-3 days, stirring daily.

strain through muslin/sieve/whatever and bottle. Reuse plastic bottles that originally contained fizzy stuff - lemonade, soda, etc. It's always good practice to sterilize the bottles first.

leave bottles in warmish place for 10 days - then they can be moved somewhere cooler. recipes vary in length of time before drinking - earliest I've seen is 2 weeks - most tend towards 2-3 months.

keep an eye on the pressure in the bottles - if it looks like it's gonna blow - loosen the lid slightly to let some air out. This is why you don't want to be using glass bottles for this stuff! When you open the bottles to drink - it's fizzy. And really really tasty :)


Geosomin said...

Hmmm...I'm trying to figure out how I can swap a bottle of strawberry ale for some elderberry something.
I've never had anything elderberryish before...from the way you talk about it I feel like I'm missing out on the nectar of the gods or something...:)

grapecat said...

yup - it is. Are there elder trees in Canada? I can't remember. I'll have to send some to you :)

I still always think of that line - "your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries"!