Elderflowers are difficult to come by in Chicago. So when Seedling Farms announced some were available, I jumped at the opportunity to try the ever increasing pile of elderflower recipes I have been collecting. A week or two later, lucky me had a giant box of beautifully perfumed elderflower heads in my hot little hands.

In the states, we’re probably most familiar with elderflower in the form the ubiquitous St. Germain liqueur that has managed to make its way onto every cocktail menu. Europe is better at appreciating these delicate white flowers that are most often used to perfume a sweet cordial. The elder tree is actually a pretty remarkable plant that produces both these flower and elderberries, which are also used in culinary applications. Perhaps most interestingly, the tree has long been associated with witches, and the wood of the tree is particularly well suited to making magic wands. Cool.

What is not to love? And why isn’t there an elder tree on every corner?

I began with some elderflower cordial, a sweet concentrate that you can use in a variety of ways. It is lovely with sparkling water, a refreshing soft drink that I plan on enjoying all summer. You can add it to baked goods or drizzle it over ice cream, you can even add it to jams. Basically, go crazy with it. And it could not be simpler to make. The June issue of Jamie Oliver’s magazine featured a beautiful spread on the flowers and their uses that is totally inspiring.

Up next, elderflower fritters, which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable recipes I have tackled in my kitchen.

Elderflower Cordial (recipe from May/June issue of Jamie)

  • 20 elderflower heads
  • 1.5kg granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 2 oranges, quartered

Gently shake the flowers to get rid of any insects. bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Place the lemon and orange quarters in a large bowl with the elderflowers. Pour over the warm syrup, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave to steep for 24 hours.

The next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and pour into clean bottles. Store in the fridge. Makes 1.5

36 comments to “Elderflowers”

  1. I wish my computer had smell-o-vision. Looking at the photo makes me want to lean in and sniff. Then, of course, I’d make a tasty beverage to cool me off on this warm June day.

  2. My goodness, how lovely! Now I must hunt down these pretty little flowers.

  3. they are so small and delicate…. truly lovely. elderflower fritter… so curious!

  4. I’ve never had elderflower before. Tim, do you know if they are available in California or do they exist only in certain states?

  5. Loving these photos, Tim. I love finding produce like this—-ingredients that dictate what you make, rather than you picking the recipe and finding the ingredients to fit.

  6. I saw your tweet about the fritters, and they looked so good! St. Germain is lovely, but sometimes it’s too sweet for me. This cordial sounds like a really nice option for controlling the sweetness a bit. Now to find some elderflowers…

  7. I’ve never used them before but they’re beautiful.

  8. Oh oh oh! I tried making elderflower liqueur a few weeks back and all the blossoms turned brown! I’m going to brave a second try, and perhaps make it a cordial this time. These photos are extra lovely, Tim.

  9. This was my first year to make elderflower cordial, too. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to deep fry the blossoms at home! The cordial is wonderful stirred into sliced strawberries (let it sit to macerate while the strawberries release their juices), then divided among glasses and topped with equal parts seltzer and sparkling wine. Very pretty….

  10. I needs me some elderflowers now. So pretty! I love St Germain so much.

  11. I am SO sad I missed these. I wonder what the chances are they will have any at the market on Wednesday or Saturday. Hmm…

  12. …I so need to start following my fav’ peeps via Twitter. I feel like I’m missing out. :o\

    …After seeing this, I will have to get some elderflowers and they’re so beautiful too! And may I say how much I love the first and second photos – perfection! :o)

    …Thank you for enlightening me on this subject as I wasn’t aware of them before… I so need to get out more. ;o)

    …Blessings… :o)

  13. …Oh, and in all honesty, I shuddered at this sentence: “Gently shake the flowers to get rid of any insects.” *giggle* ;o)

  14. And those swing top bottles—-love the shapes and sizes of those three….especially the rectangular one. Where do you suggest getting swing top bottles. I like to make homemade syrups for my bell inis, and those bottles would make a great display. Love the recipe for the cordial. Thank you.

  15. Looks beautiful and refreshing! Would love to get my hands on these…!

  16. I’ve been meaning to hunt down some elderflowers. I’ll make it a mission this weekend!

  17. So delicate & beautiful!

  18. Tim! This is really perfect because just recently I was standing under a huge elderflower tree wondering about recipes. (Kartik asks if they are found in CA and yes, the tree was in Pasadena) I have such a fond memory of hiking in Switzerland and coming upon a sweet forest cafe where we had elderflower drinks. I look forward to trying these recipes!

  19. Tara- Those bottles have been floating around our house for a while. I know container store sells them, and they are available online: http://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=11

    Kartik- yes! they are definitely in California. (see SG comment)

    SG- good timing. I want to be go to a forest cafe.

  20. brockvillegirl says:

    June 27th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    sparkling Elderflower water and gin make an awesome light summer drink combo!

  21. So cool that elderflower is associated with witches and magic. I never knew that, and it’s just the kind of detail that piques my interest the most!

  22. I only discovered elderflower cordial after moving to Ireland, and now I can’t get enough of it. I have two trees in my garden and make cordial from them, but my favourite way to use it is to pour a couple tablespoons into a champagne flute and top it up with prosecco, such a summer treat.

  23. OMG OMG OMG my mother and grandmother would always make this in the summer when i was growing up. The mere smell of elderflower drink takes me back to my most treasured memories. Thank you

  24. Next year I’ll try orange, too. I’m surprised you still have elderflowers overthere. I already wait for the berries to turn purple.

  25. What a crazy idea!! I LOVE IT! Can’t wait to find some and try this out! I feel healthier just looking at them.

  26. Crate and Barrel outlet has a “sealed bottle” and “small sealed flask” available for purchase. I might have to grab a few and hope that some elderflowers come my way :-)

  27. Where I live (Slovenia), elderflower bushes grow literally around every corner :) And the flowers are now already turning into berries, that are used in marmelades and for medicinal purposes. But the most common use for the elderflowers around here is for making tea – we dry the flowers and then we mix them with dried linden flowers. Some lemon and honey and you can relive the summertime in the middle of the cold winter :)

  28. I swear I saw an elderflower tree right outside of Avec yesterday. Do they smell a bit like lilacs? If so, I’m foraging!

  29. I steeped mine last night and had some tonight with a friend. A really perfect, summertime drink.

  30. The picture of the flowers in your post looked exactly like the unidentified bush outside our kitchen window… We’ve done a little more research now, and sure enough, it is an Elderberry! Thank you Lottie + Doof! For your culinary inspiration as well as for plant identification. Deliciousness awaits! (now if only we happened upon lemon and orange trees somewhere on the property. Unlikely, as we’re in Iowa, not California.)

  31. I love all the amazing new things you introduce to us! I wonder if I can find some around here!

  32. I’ve been a quiet follower but the mention of elderflower got me all sorts of excited! I just had my first taste of elderflower last week at Ikea (yes, Ikea), which sells darling juice boxes of the tasty drink. They also carry elderflower syrup and jam. I’m totally inspired by your recipe here!

  33. My husband actually discovered elderflower liqueur at a bourbon festival he attended. He immediately went to the ABC store and concocted a cocktail of champagne, soda water, st. germaine and lemon. It’s to date one of our favorite refreshing drinks.

  34. you had me at fritters, but the WANDS? I die.

    don’t know what rock i’ve been under but i’m having the most delightful time wandering around L+D. absolute heaven. this is my kind of cooking!

  35. This is so gorgeous. :)

  36. I grew up in Switzerland and Elderberry Syrup was a staple in my house when my kids were little; I bottled some every summer. It’s a great source of vitamin C and is a good remedy for colds… We also have a summer drink called “HUGO” that is very popular and it’s simple but super refreshing: pour a bit of elderberry syrup into a glass of champagne or prosecco, garnish with some mint and enjoy! I live in Canada now and elderberry bushes are a bit harder to find but my kids still demand the syrup ever year.

What do you think?