Elderflowers are synonymous with Spring and early Summer. Their creamy flat saucer-like flower heads are a joy to behold. The glorious sight of an elderflower hedge in full riotous flower always makes me want to pick a basketful.
Elderflowers have a sweet musky aroma that is so distinctive. They pop up as a botanical in a number of gins where they add a surprisingly exotic floral note for such modest little flowers.
Elderflower is common all over Europe and North America, flowering in early summer from the end of May to the middle of June. Their season is brief so get out there and pick!
But what to do with them? Well, elderflower syrup is a lovely fragrant syrup to add to your G&T or home cocktails.
Homemade elderflower syrup is fuss-free and simple to make and the taste is sublime. Once you have made your own you won’t want to go back to commercial syrups.
How to Make Elderflower Syrup
Harvesting your Elderflowers
Fresh is best. But for those of you who can’t get access to fresh elderflowers you can buy the dried flowers online. The flavour is much more concentrated in the dried so go easy by using just a quarter of the quantity.
Luckily, I don’t have to go far to pick mine. I have a native elderflower bush as part of a hedge at the bottom of my garden. It is an easy shrub/tree to grow. All you need to do is cut it back hard when it gets too tall, you can cut it almost down to the ground, and it will repay you the following spring with an abundance of fresh growth and flowers. Every year I pick some elderflowers and leave some to grow into elderberries which I also use in the kitchen.
Pick your elderflowers on a dry day. Using a pair of kitchen scissors gently snip them off at the stalk, trying not to include any leaves and bag them up. Wash them gently under a running tap to remove all the little beasties lurking. But the flavour is in the pollen so don’t dowse them under a great deluge.
Tip: Try drying your own elderflowers. A week in an airing cupboard, or a warm dry place, on a cardboard tray to keep the air circulating should do it. The homemade dry ones are a lot lighter in colour and nicer than bought dried ones.
Making the Syrup
- 1/2 cup / 120ml by vol dried or 1 cup fresh elderflowers (about 4 flowerheads)
- 1 cup / 240ml water
- 1 to 2 cups / 240 to 480ml by vol of sugar
- A squirt of honey if so desired
- Gently heat the elderflowers, dried or fresh, and water together in a pan until the mixture is at simmering point. If using fresh place them flower head down so they are submerged in the water.
- Don’t let the mixture boil. Elderflowers have a delicate flavour and boiling will give them a stewed taste.
- When the mixture is warmed up take it off the heat.
- Leave to infuse and cool down for a couple of hours or overnight.
- First, strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the flowers.
- Next, strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth in a sieve to remove some of the finer bits of elderflower.
- Finally, strain the liquid through a coffee filter. The resulting liquid will be coloured but clear of any tiny bits of plant.
- Take the elderflower infused liquid and measure it.
- For every cup of liquid measure 1 to 2 cups of sugar, depending on how sweet your tooth is. Elderflowers are quite sweet so 2 cups maybe a little too much.
- If you like the taste of honey this is the time to add a little to your liquid. It will add a mellow caramel warmth to the sweetness.
- Gently heat the liquid and sugar in a clean pan to dissolve the sugar crystals.
- Once the sugar crystals have dissolved decant the syrup into a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge for a few weeks.