Elderflower - Summer's Secret Weapon

Elderflower Blossom

Elderflower Blossom

This tree was everywhere in Italy.  All I hear every time I see it now is an exclamation of guarda, che meraviglia.  And so I do, look, and marvel, just as nonna said.  It is thanks to her that I noticed it for the firtst time, in Switzerland.  A country I'd been coming to since I was born.  Funny what you notice sometimes, isn't it?  WWOOFing taught me to look.  Now I can't help but get excited by the idea of transforming raw ingredients, hand picked, locally sourced, with my bare hands, into something delicious.  Even something as simple as Elderflower.

Stunning blossom, beautifully delicate, deliciously fragrant.  With the last of this year’s elderflower blossoms, had to whip up one last batch of Elderflower Simple Syrup to last through the summer.  Good thing too, because it has been scortching.  Which is why you need this under your belt to make my secret ingredient Elderflower Cordial.  It may just be simple syrup… but for that je ne sais quoi, throw it on anything and everything and your guests won’t quite know what hit them while going back for seconds thirds and fourths.  This is the easiest, simplest, serious-business, need-right-now, up-leveling, secret-summer-weapon Elderflower simple syrup.

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial

This Elderflower Cordial has got to be one of my favourite uses for the syrup.  It will refresh you within seconds and energise you instantly.  It's like gatorade, but, without all the chemicals and bucket loads of sugar.  And, home made.  Which always tastes better.  Perhaps deprivation as a child has led to this late blooming appreciation for it.  Nevertheless, I’m appreciating it a whole damn lot.  And I think you should too.  And when happy hour rolls around, throw in a shot or 3 of gin, vodka?, maybe champagne, oh but pimms.  You get the idea…

Elderflower Simple Syrup & Cordial
nibs etc. original recipe.
Note. This is catered to my tastebuds, but should you want more or less elderflower flavour in your simple syrup, simply reduce/increase the number of elderflower blossom heads accordingly.  This is but a starting point.  Be inspired by the senses and the seasons.

Elderflower Simple Syrup:
3 cups Water
5 Elderflower Blossom Heads
3 cups Sugar

Elderflower Cordial:
1/2 cup Elderflower Simple Syrup
3-4 thin slices of Lemon, halved
1 cup Sparkling Water
1 cup Still Water
1 cup Ice Cubes
3-5 Sprigs of Celery Leaf (secret ingredient! don't be scared...)

For the simple syrup, wash your elderflower heads, then carefully remove the white flowers from their green stems as cleanly as possible (green stems will ferment and brown faster spoiling the pure elderflower flavour) and place into a large glass bowl.  Pour 3 cups of room temperature water over the blossoms, and allow to sit, uncovered, for 24-36 hours (browning will be a sign to get onto the next step pronto).
Strain the liquid into a pot, and add the sugar.  Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to ensure no sugar sticks to the bottom, and until all sugar has melted.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the syrup begins to thicken (or a finger brought down the back of your spoon leaves a clean streak).
In the meantime, prep your jars for storing (I used a variety of jam jars): sterilize by boiling in a pot of water, lids and all, for 10 minutes or so (or stick them in the washing machine for a cycle, or, if you’re lazy like me, simply wash with scorching hot water, taking care not to burn your self).  Allow to dry, top side down.
When your syrup is ready, carefully pour into your sterilized jars.  Place your lids on top and turn until sealed but not tight, and leave to cool on the counter.  As the liquid cools, the pressure will change causing a suction pulling the lids downwards, sealing the simple syrup.  Once cooled completely, double check the lids are indeed sealed (pressing down on its centre – if it doesn’t move, it has sealed, but if you find you can click it down, either try to manually seal by pressing down as you seal the lid tightly, or simply consume that one first!), and store in the pantry.  Once opened for use, simple syrup will keep for 2 or so (probably more, mine just never lasts longer!) in the fridge.

For the cordial, pour all liquid ingredients into your serving jar, give it a quick stir with something long (say, a chopstick).  Then add the ice cubes, thinly sliced lemon, and sprigs of celery leaf – which I find adds the perfect savoury contrast to the sweet simple syrup  If you're skeptical - or scared - add mint for a more classic flavour combo).  If it’s happy hour, why don’t you go ahead and pour in your liquor of choice right about now.
Serve over ice, garnishing with a thin slice of lemon, and a small sprig of celery.

Drizzled into and over your breakfast bowl of choice: fresh fruit, yoghurts (another favourite use), muesli, granola.
Infuse your summer desserts: popsicles, ice creams, compotes, coulis, jams, crumbles, pound cakes (lemon in particular), cheesecakes, frangipane bakewell tarts and grilled summer fruits.
Top fresh cheese, curd, ricotta toasts.
Replace the simple syrup in your favourite cocktail with this one, shake, serve, and see what happens.

Cheers to summer!