Last year I missed the elderflower season.
I only woke up to the fact that it was upon us when it was too late; the blooms had already passed and the heavens had opened to deluge us with rain after a lengthy drought.
This year I was determined not to miss out, and scouted for accessible (i.e. not surrounded by thickets of brambles and head-high stinging nettles) elderflower (sambucca nigra) shrubs. There were a number within very easy reach. It was simply a matter of waiting for them to flower.
Why you may ask? Well if you have never breathed in the heady perfume of elderflower, then you have never experienced an English summer.
It is powerful and indescribable (indeed it is one of those aroma characteristics featuring in wine tasting descriptors along with orange blossom, violets and roses etc), but quintessentially floral and refreshing.
The flowers are also an extremely useful resource and can be turned into delicious elderflower cordial, and sparkling elderflower 'wine' (for want of a better word).
|Blooms soaking in sugar/water solution|
There are many recipes for the former, and for the latter you can follow a méthode ancestrale procedure to make the sparkling liquid (taking care to choose containers strong enough to resist the pressure of CO2 given off during fermentation in bottle). You can add lemon juice and zest to both concoctions to add acidity, and even tartaric acid to the cordial to help it keep.
The cordial is a great way of livening up tap water. Diluted to taste with very cold water, it makes a very refreshing drink. The sparkler is flowery and fresh, with a balance of alcohol/residual sugar depending on how fully you decide to ferment it.
These are two great hedgerow treats, not to be missed.