by Sandy Swegel
My favorite foraging is for the elder plant…both the elderflowers now and the elderberries later in summer. I adore elderberries in jam or sauce and that’s my primary use for the berries (in addition to a medicinal elixir.) But once I knew the location of sufficient elderberry bushes and trees that I could risk taking the flowers also, I became a big fan of elderflower drinks. Especially champagne. Who wouldn’t love do-it-yourself-in-a-few-weeks champagne?
Making elderflower cordial or champagne is super easy and has only a few guidelines:
-Find a good plant, preferably not on a busy road where it picks up car exhaust and pollutants.
-Pick the flowers earlier in the day. (I don’t think you have to actually make sure the dew is still hanging from the blossoms.)
-Process the flowers right away. Experience has taught me the flowers spoil easily. Things that don’t work: keeping the flowers in the car all day while you run errands; keeping the flowers in the refrigerator (they brown), leaving the flowers in a bucket of water for a day. Just process them within a couple hours of picking for best flavor.
There are lots of recipes online, but the basic recipe is flower bunches, sugar, acid (either lemon juice or vinegar.) You don’t have to add yeast…there are usually plenty of wild yeasts on the blossoms…although connoisseurs use champagne yeast from the brewing store.
Here’s an easy recipe: http://www.farminmypocket.co.uk/harvest/home-brewing/elderflower-champagne-recipe
Here’s a recipe that uses champagne yeast: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/01/how-to-make-elderflower-champagne
Last year I was very happy making elderflower cordials…which is the same basic recipe but it’s ready in just two days. But it doesn’t have bubbles, so now that I know I can turn elderflowers into a delightful drink, I’m aiming for bubbles this year.
Elderflower cordial http://britishfood.about.com/od/recipeindex/r/efowercordial.htm