Elderflower is a marvelous herb, draping its aromatic veil over anything it comes into contact with. The elder tree is found all over Scandinavia, and indeed all over Europe. Learn more about Scandinavian elderflower.
Steeped in myth and magic, the elder was long regarded as sacred, and people would plant it near their house to ward of witches and evil spirits. It is said that if you can fall asleep under a flowering elder you should be able to dream of your future – and the smell is certainly intoxicating if you stay long enough.
How it grows
Common elder (Sambucus nigra), grows wild, self-seeded, in every country garden, and in ditches and clearings everywhere. There are flowers enough for everyone in late May and June. In autumn, the elder tree bears small, round, purple berries, that are good for cordials.
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Appearance and taste
The cream flowers are used when young, but not while unopened. The smell is very complex and intoxicating: musky, heady, and even foxy if you smell long enough. Choose freshly opened flowers, and leave those whose petals start to drop when you pick them. Don’t wash them as they will lose their perfume. Instead, simply shake off any insects.
The elderflower’s muscat-grape aroma permeates and blends well with lemon and green herbs, butter and sugar, berries and fruit. It works well in teas, syrups, and of course, in cordials. Elderflower cordial captures the flavor so well that it effectively allows you to replace the flowers when the season is over.
Elderflower doesn’t have to be used exclusively in sweet dishes. It works well in mackerel, and is a beautiful ingredient in herb or spiced salts. The flowers’ affinity with gooseberries is legendary, both as a sauce for fish, in compote, and in jam.
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This is a very strong cordial, and should be kept well, but it’s important that everything that comes into contact with it is sterilized in boiling water first, including the bottles, corks and even the muslin.
50 elderflower heads
Juice and thinly pared zest of 6 lemons
3kg brown sugar
2 liters boiling water
100g tartaric acid
MAKES 4 LITERS
Remove the coarsest stalks, as well as any little bugs, from the elderflowers, then put everything in a large, non-corrosive bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cover with a clean cloth. Let the mixture sleep for 5 days, mixing occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
Stain through a scalded piece of muslin, then bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. Once opened, the cordial should be kept in the fridge and drunk within a week. There will be a layer of pollen in the drink, but this is harmless.
Scandinavian Elderflower, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Photo: Nordic Kitchen Stories