Elderflower Liqueur

The other day I made elderflower cordial, and since I just adore this flavour I always make some elderflower liqueur too. This year a good quality vodka will be used, as it gave wonderful results with the elderberry liqueur last autumn.

Elderflower Liqueur

You will need

  • 30 flower heads
  • 1.5 litres of vodka
  • 450g granulated sugar

Harvest and prepare the flowerheads, as for the cordial (see here). Cut off as much of the stalk as possible. Place in a 2-litre, sterilised preserving jar and cover with the alcohol. Seal.

Keep in a cool dark place for a month, shaking occasionally. The flowers will turn brown, but that’s fine as long as they are covered with alcohol… if necessary top up your jar with more vodka to keep them covered.

Don’t these flowers look beautiful in the jar!

After a month, strain, and pour the clear liquid back into a newly sterilised jar. Add sugar, seal and shake. Return to a cool dark place and shake from time to time. Once the sugar has dissolved, it’s ready to drink!

(This is especially good to sip during the winter while sitting in front of the fire… a strange thought in June, I know!)

By the way, the elder tree is said to ward off witches and evil spirits, and it is considered bad luck to cut one down…

Be warned! 😉

This concludes my series of posts on elder for the time being; soon the flowers will lose all their petals, and the fragrance will fade, but I know there will be an abundance of shiny berries in the autumn and  I can look forward to wandering into the woods again, bucket and shears at the ready…

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!

Frozen Treasure (and my 100th post!)

I discovered some home-grown rhubarb in the bottom of my freezer the other day, and while pondering what to do with it (how long does it keep frozen?) I kept thinking about my winter spice syrup recipe…

So, to celebrate 100 posts on Words and Herbs I made this:

Milchreis (rice pudding) with winter spice syrup and stewed rhubarb.

The rice:

250g short grain rice

1 litre milk (use almond or soya for the vegan version)

pinch of salt

A little cream

Bring the milk to the boil, remove from heat and stir in the rice and the pinch of salt. Put back on a very low heat, put a lid on the pan and leave to barely simmer for about twenty-thirty minutes, stirring now and then. Mix in a little cream before serving. Serve warm.

The rhubarb: simmer over a low heat until soft and then turn up heat to reduce some of the excess liquid. If very sour, add a little sugar.

The syrup:
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp allspice
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp ginger

Bring all ingredients to a simmer, stirring constantly to combine. Strain through a mesh sieve.
Can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but may need straining again.

Now put a little of each in a dish and enjoy!

By the way, the syrup tastes good in fruit tea, mixed with sekt or ginger ale, and is especially fine on pancakes or even porridge…


Traditionally the Christmas markets in Germany open the first weekend of Advent.

My first visit to a German Christmas market, way back in 1987, will always be a magnificent memory for me.

I shall never forget the sudden overwhelming scents of cinnamon and nuts roasted in sugar, of mulled wine and punch, caramalised fruits and fruit cake, roasting chestnuts, fresh dates, roasted sausages, sauerkraut and schupfnudeln (finger-shaped potato noodles fried with kraut and onions). The wafting of all these delicious smells was so unexpected. I had had no idea! I was simply expecting the visual delight of stalls displaying all the little tree decorations and shiny baubles.

Visually it was, however, also much more than just glittery stands. The steam and haze surrounding the food stalls gave everything an ethereal glow. And the crowds of people, all looking so happy, with rosy cheeks from the cold, was a pure pleasure to see.

Then there were the sounds. Obviously a crowd has a kind of buzz, but there were also musical boxes and faint Christmas carols on the tannoy speakers, and the carousel music and the clanking of mugs full of hot drinks.

I remember eating a white-chocolate-coated banana on a stick, some cinnamon sugar roasted almonds, and some schupfnudeln with tangy sauerkraut. Washed down with a piping hot mug of Gluehwein (hot red wine and juice mixed with spices and sugar).

And I remember buying a couple of the little decorations from the amazing choice on the stalls…such difficult decisions!

And I remember feeling very small among all the hubbub.

Herb Liqueur

At the end of the summer I found I still had lots of herbs to be used up. I don’t really have the space to dry them, so some went in the freezer, some were processed into herb butter, and some went into this herb liqueur (Recipe below). I’d never made it before, so I had no idea what it would taste like…


Two weeks later it was time to filter it, so I took a sip…. Then I took another sip. Mmmmm!

Then I took a photo before the glass was empty;)

Recipe for Herb Liqueur

  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 3 sprigs basil (with flower)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 700ml Southern Comfort
  • 225g crystalized sugar
  • 1 lemon

The method couldn’t be simpler: wash and dry all the herbs and put them in a sterilized jar with the sugar and lemon peel. Cover with the alcohol and leave for 2 weeks in a warm, but not sunny place. Shake occasionally.

Then, after the two weeks are up, strain and sieve. It is ready to drink, but apparently tastes better the longer it is left. (This could be tricky…I’d better make some more!)