Elderflowers, suspended like stars in all the hedgerows; those fragrant clusters, lovely sprays of perfumed blooms, like little floral clouds, in an almost cloudless June.
There’s a way of capturing that June feeling, bottling it, and saving it for a rainy day- it’s the week for all things elderflower, before the blooms turn bitter paper-brown.
So off we go, my neighbour and I, to wrestle with some trees. An uncanny fact to know before elderflower foraging, is that the best flowers are always out of reach, and hiding behind vast walls of nettles.
Our weapons of choice- a pair of gloves for nettle bashing, a basket and secateurs for snipping and saving, and a rather charming wooden walking stick for snagging any bounty hiding in the upper echelons.
We made quite the team; Ruth, hooking the branches with supreme elegance, for a sticky, warm Sunday, whilst I did the less hard job of picking, sniffing and snipping. Best to get the umbels as they’re just opening. If the smell less sweet, Summer florals and more reminiscent of cat pee, leave them to ripen into elderberries to forage later in the year.
- Approximately 24 elderflower heads
- 1 and a half litres of water
- 1 kg sugar
- 3 lemons, sliced into rounds
- 1 orange, sliced into rounds
- 3 heaped teaspoons of citric acid
Once gathered, gently shake any little bugs from the elderflowers.
Heat the water in a large pan, and add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Then add the citrus slices and the citric acid. Bring to the boil. Once boiling take off the heat and add the elderflowers.
Allow to infuse for 24 hours. Then strain into sterilised bottles. Keep up to 4 weeks or freeze a few for later.