There only seem to be a couple of Elders in our immediate neighbourhood, but the other day my mother took my children and me to a spot where they grow prolifically. After my Mum asked permission from a property owner, we harvested two bagfuls of flowers.
There were many other Elder trees frustratingly out of reach - they were on someone else's property, probably not used by the owner, but we had no way of asking the owner at the time.
Home again, I made a few things, including syrup for elderflower cordial and even elderflower junket. (No one in the family liked that except me, but I am a junket addict, and I will eat it any way at all.)
The internet presents a bewildering array of recipes for elderflower cordial - as well as wine and champagne. Everyone likes to make it differently. Here are some thoughts on navigating through the confusion ...
A big part of the trick with the cordial is to get the proportion of sugar to elderflower flavour right, but that's going to depend on your own personal tastes. If in doubt, err on the side of adding less sugar than you think you need. It's easy to add more sugar syrup at the end if you find you need it, but less easy to up the ratio of elderflower.
It seems important not to skimp on the lemons. They add something really important to the flavour. In my first batch I didn't use enough lemon (to my taste anyway), so I've been adding an extra squeeze to each cup as I have it.
What I did
I used the method at Gastronomy Domine - but changed the proportions, and didn't use citric acid. I will freeze some to preserve it instead.
My proportions ...
Around 20 elderflower heads
1.5 litres of water
3 cups sugar
I also heeded advice from other websites to remove as much stem from the flowers as possible. Some little stems are okay, but not the big ones.
There are these tiny little black bugs that like to live in flowers round here. They mostly crawl very fast, and I can't quite tell if they have wings or not. If anyone knows what they are, please tell me! Anyway, we found heaps in our elderflowers. I've also found big communities of them in gorse flowers, apple blossoms and roses.
Often it's good not to wash any flowers before using them, because -
(a) it can damage the fragile petals
(b) flowers readily release their fragrant/flavoursome/active components into water, and you don't want to wash any of that valuable stuff away
(c) if you're making something like wine, where you want plenty of wild yeasts, you don't want to wash yeasts off.
SO - I stumbled on a way to get rid of these wee beings without washing the flowers. It's a little time-consuming, and there may be a better way, but anyhow, I'll post that on Wild Concoctions a bit later today.