Elderflowers: The Fragrance of Summer

There is a heavenly scent in the air. Is it the fragrance of summer? As I walk the few paces along the footpath next to our garden  the answer is revealed. The elderflowers are opening!

I wish I could make perfume out of it, but I know the next best thing. I can drink it!

Elderflower Cordial

I usually make the syrup first, so that it can cool while I go out foraging in the woods. I put on long trousers and long sleeves. I take my bucket and gardening sheers. And before going out the back gate I spread out an old yellow tablecloth near the back door…

After fighting my way through stinging nettles almost as tall as myself, I inhale deeply and start snipping. Only the biggest, most aromatic flower heads fall into my bucket, which will still smell of the flowers days later. Snip, snip. I dawdle a little, deep in the woods, invisible to anyone walking the footpath. A moment of peace and fragrance!

My bucket brimming, I return home to the yellow tablecloth outside my back door and spread the flower heads out, shaking them a little. Within seconds all the little flies crawl out onto the yellow surface. I don’t need to wash the flowers now.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 litre water
  • 1kg white sugar
  • 18 elderflower heads
  • 1 large lemon, organic, sliced
  • 30g citric acid

Mix the sugar with the water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Collect the elderflowers in good weather, preferably around midday when their aroma is most intense. Do NOT wash the flowers, but shake them and spread on a yellow cloth or paper until the insects have all come out! Remove as much of the stem as possible without breaking up the flowers too much. Put them in a large bowl and place the lemon slices on top. Sprinkle over the citric acid and then pour the cooled syrup over the flowers. Cover and leave to stand for 24 hours or even a couple of days. Stir occasionally.

Finally sieve and then strain through a very fine muslin cloth into sterilized bottles or jars. Stored in the refrigerator, the syrup can be kept for several months or even a year.

Drink diluted with chilled water, or add to sparkling wine. I also use it in desserts and in the glaze on top of my strawberry flan. ( I just had enough left from last year for my first strawberry flan this spring).

Another way to preserve the aroma of elderflowers is in alcohol…  😉

Recipe for Elderflower Liqueur coming soon!

43 thoughts on “Elderflowers: The Fragrance of Summer

  1. Very interesting. If I could only find some elderflower around here. I think I had an elderberry bush at a house in California. I wonder if that would be the same thing. It’s been quite awhile, but I think I remember the flowers looking much the same.

    • The elder tree/bush bears flowers in June and berries in September. The berries are slightly toxic if eaten raw, so they are often added to fruit crumbles or jam. I’ll post my recipe for the elderberry liqueur in the autumn! 😀

    • I assumed it grows everywhere. It smells so lovely and when looking across fields at this time of year you can see the trees in flower all around! Elder grows in hedgerows or on the edge of woodland.

    • You’re welcome. I’ve been making it for years now… the picking of the flowers is part of the pleasure, but sipping the cordial on a hot August afternoon is the real reward!

  2. I’ve been telling myself every year I need to do this (there’s a ton of elderflower that grows by the lakeshore), and having failed that, then telling myself I need to do something with the berries. And never getting round to either. Now you have me imagining little bugs pottering about on elderflower blossom catching sight of a yellow sheet and saying to themselves “ooh, look at that! That looks interesting. I think I’ll go and see what that big expanse of yellow could be!”

    So much reason to finally do it! Thanks!

  3. I love the Fragrance of Elderflowers !!! My aunt makes champagne of elderflowers. It tastes smoothy, soft and sparkles. Der Sirup ist bestimmt auch sehr gut.

  4. After reading this I must go see if mine are in bloom! 🙂 Wish I could let me nose lead me but with so many blossoms that maybe a tall order. Thanks for the beautiful post. Went great with my morning coffee. 🙂

  5. We have tons of elderflowers – or we will, in a week or two, once they open – and I have always wanted to do this! Thanks for the step-by-step.
    Have you ever dried the flowers? I read once about drying them flat, and then layering them with your storage apples, come fall. The fragance of the flowers infuses the apples…or so they said. I havent tried it – yet!

    • I have never heard of drying them, but I suppose it must work as I’ve heard of elderflower tea… Wouldn’t that be great if your apples tasted faintly of elderflower! If you try it let me know the result! 😀

  6. Love your last photo. I had one elderberry bush but each year it died back more and more. I think our harsh winters were just to much for it.

    • Hi there. That’s a pity about your elderberry. We have pretty harsh winters here too, but perhaps not as long. It needs plenty of time (and sun) to bloom and produce fruit.

  7. Cathy, do you know “Holunderküchlein”? Some years ago a neighbour gave us a taste. Elderflower
    umbels are baked in a pancake dough and strewn with sugar. Delicious!

    • Yes! We had “Hollerkirchl” when I made this cordial a few days ago! Our dear Oma showed me how a good many years back! (Might do a post on them…) 😀

  8. Good idea! I need to do something with the elderflower in my garden as it gets to big. Looking forward to the alcohol recipe 😉

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