The days are lengthening, the sun is shining more often, buds and blossoms are bursting on the trees and happy lambs are frolicking in the fields. All this could only mean one thing: Spring has finally arrived. With it comes a new season of growing and of making, and in today’s blog post, we take a look at one of our favourite springtime treats - elderflower - with some tempting and tantalising ideas for refreshing drinks that make use of this amazing hedgerow gift.
When to pick elderflowers
Elderflowers typically arrive towards the end of May, but with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve already seen this year and a good Spring in progress, the chances are that flowers will appear a lot earlier this year, so it’s important to keep an eye out on your local supply. If you don’t have any elder trees in your own garden, look out for them in local hedgerows or woodland. Always act responsibly, though, taking only what you need and with permission from the landowner. If you spot any elderflowers in local gardens, you can always knock on your neighbour’s door and ask if you could make use of them, perhaps in return for a bottle of elderflower cordial!
It’s best to pick elderflowers on a dry and sunny morning and it makes sense to choose plants that are growing well away from car fumes, if at all possible. Give each branch a good shake to remove any insects or leaf debris and pop the branches in a bin liner to carry then home. When you’re ready to use them, give the elderflowers a quick rinse in cold water.
Of course, elderflower cordial is the drink that everyone immediately thinks of when elderflower season starts, so it would be silly to omit this mouth-watering drink from our round-up. Here’s our recipe:
25 elderflower sprays
2.5kg granulated sugar
90gms citric acid
1. In a large pan, add the sugar to 1.5 litres of water and heat gently to dissolve the sugar.
2. With the sugar dissolved, bring the liquid to the boil briefly, then set aside to cool.
3. Trim the stalks from the elderflowers and wash the flower heads gently. Transfer to the sugar liquid. Zest the lemons and then slice into rounds and add this too, along with the citric acid.
4. Pop the lid on the pan and leave for 24 hours, so that the elderflower flavours infuse the liquid.
5. Line a colander or a sieve with a muslin cloth and decant the cordial into a large jug, then pour it into clean, sterilised swing-top bottles. You can drink the cordial immediately and it will also keep for up to six weeks if you store it in the fridge.
If you think that elderflower cordial is amazing, wait until you try elderflower champagne! It’s absolutely heavenly and is perfect for summer celebrations. Here’s the recipe:
15 elderflower sprays, washed and trimmed 1kg granulated sugar
5 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Add 8 litres of warm water into a large maslin pan and add the sugar, stirring until it has all dissolved.
Add the zest of the lemons, then slice the lemons and add the slices too.
Add the white wine vinegar and the elderflower sprays and stir thoroughly.
Cover with a clean muslin cloth and leave for 24 hours. Check for fermentation and add a small amount of yeast if necessary.
After 2 days, remove the flowers and recover the pan for another 4 to 5 days.
Decant through a muslin cloth into a jug and then pour into clean, sterilised glass bottles. Check the pressure in the bottles every day and release any gas by opening the top. After a week, the champagne should be ready to drink.
If you love infusing alcoholic drinks with additional flavours, why not try some elderflower gin? Elderflowers add a real taste of early summer to gin, making it perfect for relaxed garden parties or weekend treats. Simply wash around 10 sprays of elderflowers and place them in a jug or a bowl, then add a tablespoon of caster sugar, the zest of one lemon and 500ml of good-quality gin. Leave to infuse for 24 hours before removing the flowers and straining into clean, sterilised swing-top bottles. This gin will keep for around a month and is best served with ice and a premium tonic water.
If you’ve been inspired to try your hand at making one or more of these delicious and refreshing drinks, why not browse our range of glass bottles online to find the perfect bottles to set your drinks off to a tee. Our swing-top bottles, in particular, are ideal for these summery drinks and they’re great for taking on picnics or out in the garden.
Don’t forget to share your own creations with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!