Have you ever tried any elderflower (holunderblüte) drink? What about the homemade elderflower cordial? If not, you're missing out. I first tried it a couple of years ago when a friend made it in London, and I've been making it every year since, if I can find the flowers. It's really, really good, and so easy to make, let me show you.
First you need to find elderflowers. Look for a tree/bush like the above. I don't have a good picture of a single flower, but a quick image search will show you tons. Here's one from Wikipedia:
If you find enough of them, and they're in bloom, it means you can make your cordial (there's also an elderflower champagne recipe that seems easy to make as well, but I never tried it). It's best that you pick your flowers in the morning and make it that day, and also that they're dry (as in not wet, not as in brown), so before you start cutting up the tree, here's a list of things you need:
- Elderflowers, 30 heads (they vary in size, I count one unit if it has a diameter of around 7cm, some have more)
- Sugar, 0.4 to 1kg
- Water, around 1.5l
- Lemons, 3 to 4
- Oranges, 1 to 2
- Citric acid, 50 to 80g
- A very big glass bowl (or any other bowl you trust not to react to something that will be in it for 24h)
- Bottles to store the cordial in
The quantities aren't specified properly because I always forget which recipe I used the year before, and have to google a new one. But then I find several that look good and just sort of pick the best parts of each. This time I'm using 0.4kg sugar (all the recipes say 1kg, actually, but that's way too much sugar for me), 3 lemons and 1 orange for a bit of extra sweetness, since I'm only using half the sugar. Otherwise I'd have used 4 lemons, no oranges.
The citric acid is also a bit of a mystery to me, I've seen recipes with 40-80g, all for the same amount of water, so I just bought two packs of Zitronen Saüre at Rewe, which are a total of 50g, and trust it'll be fine. Last year I didn't know where to buy it, so I didn't even use it. It's supposed to be a preservative/keep the natural yeast from the flowers from fermenting, so if you don't use it just make sure not to store the cordial for too long. Some people use vinegar instead, but I'll pass...
After you know where your flowers are and have all your ingredients, wait for a sunny morning (just don't wait to long or the flowers will be gone) when you have time to go pick flowers and make your cordial. If you're not very tall, you might want to bring someone with you who can reach all those high branches filled with tasty little flowers no one has tried to pick yet! Don't bother telling them that some branches are too high even for them, though, it's no use, and it's kinda entertaining to watch.
They'll get it eventually, and realise it's better to just dive into the tree and lower the branch so you can pick the flowers.
Try not to take your 30 heads all from the same tree, you want them to stay healthy and strong to grow them again next year. Plus, there's people who'll be picking the elderberries in a few months, and they'd like to have berries to pick.
Don't forget to check for bugs, dry flowers, buds that aren't open yet, before you chop it off. And after, shake it a bit just to be sure. You'll see tons of polen flying off, but worry not, there's still a lot more in them.
After you collected all the flowers you want, head back to make the cordial. Wash you lemons and oranges and slice them up
I go to the trouble of removing most of the stems for my flowers, but if you don't feel like it just recheck for bugs, shake off dry bits, and give them a gentle wash.
Then boil the water, put all the sugar and citric acid in a bowl, pour the boiling water on them to dissolve (it's a lot of sugar, it dissolves quicker in hotter water, but I dare say it doesn't have to be boiling), then add the flowers and the slices. I put the flowers on the bottom and use the lemon slices as a way of keeping them always submerse. I also added a bit more water (not boiling) to cover the lemons).
Cover it with a clean cloth, and leave it for 24h, stirring occasionally. After that, just drain it into your sterilized bottles, using a funnel and a muslin cloth, or anything that works (I use a tea strainer, if you know where to find muslin cloths in Germany, please tell!), and keep it in the fridge or the freezer for longer storage. When it's ready, you can mix it with cool water, fizzy is better (and the only time it's better), about 1 part cordial to 5 parts water, since the flavour is very intense, to cider, or just look up uses for it online, there's tons! If I find any particularly good one I'll share.
But where are the cherries and loquats?? Right, that. Well, this is actually the second time I make this this week. The first time was last weekend, to have it for lunch for BF's birthday, but I didn't have any bottles and didn't have time to go buy them until 3 days later. Because our kitchen is full of pesky fruits flies, I covered the bowl in plastic wrap to keep them away from it. And because it's a really big bowl, I couldn't put it in the fridge. When I finally bought the bottles, my cordial had a very weird deposit at the bottom, and stringy like bits. That's when I found out this stuff can ferment and there's an elderflower champagne recipe, which is not like the recipe for the cordial, so I threw that away, and am making a new batch now, with more citric acid than the 25g from before, and I'll empty the fridge if I have to.
Oh, the cherries. We picked the flowers with some friends, they help prepare the cordial, and then we went for a picnic to finish the huge amount of delicious cherries and loquats that BF's parents brought us from Portugal (go to Portugal, there's delicious cherries and loquats!). It's the sensible thing to do while you're waiting for your cordial.