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:
Stir the delicately flavored cordial into fizzy water for a uniquely refreshing drink or try one of these recipes:
Even if it contains citric acid, we still like to store the cordial in the refrigerator, where it should last for at least a month – or in the freezer for up to a year.
And then get ready to harvest elderberries later in the summer!
Related: Recipe To Try: Elderflower Fritters
(Images: Emily Ho)