Elderflower cordial makes a delightful addition to drinks and desserts — like this Elderflower Lemon Cake we shared earlier this week. Though it can be store-bought, we think the muscat-flavored syrup is even better (not to mention less expensive!) when made at home from foraged blossoms. If you have elder trees in your area, keep an eye out for the flowers, which should be blooming between now and June. Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) trees grow throughout Europe and North America, typically in sunny locations. When foraging, pick flower heads that are fully open with sweet smelling white blossoms (yellow or brown ones can have the musky odor of cat urine) and shake off any insects. Once you get home, do another insect inspection and separate the flowers from the stems using your fingers or the tines of a fork.
Making a cordial is relatively easy and involves steeping the flowers plus lemons (some people also add oranges) and citric acid (used as a preservative) in a syrup of sugar and water. Different recipes call for leaving the mixture to sit for one to five days; we usually go for about two. Strain the infused syrup into sterilized jars or bottles. For more detailed instructions, check out these recipes:
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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