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Elderflowers are difficult to come by in Chicago. So when Seedling Farms [1] 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 [2])

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