I love how much superstition surrounds these age-old beautiful trees.
From the Anglo-Saxons who believed the plant contained the soul of a witch and that cutting one down would free her spirit to find revenge, to the early Christians who said that Christ’s cross was made from the wood of an Elder, this tree has caught the imagination of people for centuries and inspired them across Europe and western parts of Asia. These days the elderflower is more known for its immune-boosting ability for colds and flu remedies, prophylactic qualities for hay-fever sufferers, even a homeopathic treatment for people with catarrh and sinus problems.
Sparkling elderflower cordial is like a splash of summer in glass. It has all those scents of a sunny day in the garden. But I had never made it myself until I found my Grandmother’s written instructions for her own recipe. These were penned in large letters over the printed five minute ‘appointment’ slots of a doctor’s diary and pressed specifically between the pages of the ‘Medicines’ chapter in the book, Recipes from an Old Farmhouse by Alison Uttley. I am lead to believe a very close friend who was, in fact, a doctor, gave her these recipes. I’m sure that these Elderflower recipes is just as medicinal now, as my Grandmother thought it was then.
Elise’s Elderflower Cordial:
25-30 heads of flowers (gathered on a sunny day when the bees are on them)
4pts boiling water
2lb caster sugar
Give the elderflowers a shake to remove any unwanted insects and cut off any thick stalks. Zest the skins of the orange and lemon, slice the remaining fruit and add these to a large bucket with the flower heads. Pour over the water and leave over night.
Strain the cordial through a fine sieve and heat in a pan gently. Stir all the sugar to dissolve. Allow it to cool, before decanting into sealable bottles.
Dilute one part cordial with five parts water (still or sparkling), over ice with a sprig of fresh mint. Add a shot of vodka or gin for an adult twist.
Elise’s Elderflower Wine:
10 – 15 heads of flowers
3 lbs. sugar
8pt. boiling water
A handful of raisins
Cut off any big stalks on the elderflower heads. Put everything in a plastic bucket, and pour over the boiling water. Stir and leave for a five days, stirring twice daily. Keep well covered.
Strain into an airtight non-metallic container and leave the cordial to work. Syphon off into bottles and drink after three months.
Elise’s Elderflower Champagne:
7 heads of flowers
8pt. cold water
1 lb. sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Warm a little of the water and melt in the sugar. Once dissolved, add this to the rest of the water. In a bucket put the elderflowers, sliced lemons and vinegar. Pour the water over the flowers and leave for twenty-four hours.
Strain, bottle and drink in ten days.