Monday, July 06, 2015

Adventures in Foraging: Elderflower Cordial

A sweet, refreshing syrup with so many uses
    In years past, I've never given Elderflowers much thought.  Last fall, I tried searching for the berries, but was confused by the number of different dark blue/black berries that populate the urban landscape here in Ottawa.  There are occasions to be adventurous - eating something of which you are not sure - should never be one of them. 
     Thankfully, one of the groups I follow on Facebook, posted a picture of some Elderflowers, proclaiming them 'in bloom'.  So, out the door I went, bags in hand. 
     As luck would have it, there are some gorgeous bushes within walking distance.  Last week would appear to have been the perfect time for a little harvesting.  The pathways on which I found many Elder bushes dotting the road were thick with lovely, creamy, white blossoms and the smell was heavenly.

     I gathered a couple of handfuls from a few different shrubs as I walked.  When harvesting, always keep in mind to leave enough blossoms behind to turn into berries for later harvest, plus enough for the birds.  You never want to strip a plant clean.  Step away and if it looks like nothing's missing, great! 
     Luckily, the recipe I found for Elderflower Cordial ( Cordial always makes me think of Anne of Green Gables! ) called for only twenty heads, leaving me some to put into a jar to enjoy.  Why these are not used for early summer weddings, I'll never understand.  The blossoms and greenery make an instant bouquet and the wee flowers themselves are the perfect looking confetti!  Did I mention the heavenly aroma? 
  The recipe is pretty straightforward, the only strange ingredient being Citric Acid ( not really that strange, just not found in the baking isle! ) which I found in bulk at Kardish with the help of the wonderful Kayla!  ( She works at the Blossom Park location and is so knowledgeable! )

Lemon slices, Rind and Elderflowers steeping in sugar syrup
     The concoction steeps over night and then gets filtered.  Don't forget to give the flowers a rinse first to remove any dirt or critters that might have come along for the ride!  Once you have it bottled, you can freeze some for later or start enjoying it right away.  The BBC site with the recipe offered some great ideas for its use.  I made a fruit salad and used a spoonful to sweeten the fruit.  Also I tried a Elderflower Wine Spritzer.  Two parts Dry White Wine, Two parts Sparking Water or Soda and one part Cordial with ice.  It made a lovely drink that way and really -  as even IKEA knows - it can be made without alcohol for a refreshing drink for kids!

     I look forward to watching the trees over the summer and seeing the berries emerge.  I shall have my canning equipment ready to make jam when the berries are ripe!  or perhaps another cordial type syrup - Elderberries are very high in Vitamin C and also reputed to be good for upset stomachs and nasal congestion.  Happy Foraging!