Today I'm going to show you how to make elderflower cordial. The flowers are used to dispel mucus, lower fevers, reduce inflammation, antiviral, laxative and are useful in the treatment of dropsy (edema). They also smell wonderful and add a tea-like flavor to cakes, muffins, and of course cordial.
The cordial is very light and summery. I like mine super ice cold mixed with lemonade or served straight with ginger ale over ice and a lemon slice. Here is how you make it:
First, you want to find a bush that is full of big white balls of fragrant flowers. I have a Morsebag that I use to collect and I stuff it as full as I can. We have a lot of bushes, but the rule is every 5th ball of flowers. you want to make sure you leave enough for the bush to produce berries, not only for use for other things, but because you never want to take more than your fair share. Animals depend on wild food too and someone else might want to wildcraft after you are gone. Make sure to leave enough behind for the next guy.
Here is what the flowers look like:
Please make sure you DO NOT wash the flowers. The smell and flavor is all in the pollen. If you wash them, you are washing away all the good stuff. Don't worry about the bugs. After the cordial is ready, you are going to strain out all the stuff anyway. Besides, bugs are good for you. Excellent source of protein :).
Next, you want to slice up some lemons:
This is your citric acid source. Last year I did this with straight citric acid, which gave my cordial a tomato-like flavor. While it was good mixed with lemonade, it was a bit underwhelming straight in tonic water. I anticipate a more citrus flavor this year, which is personally more pleasing to me.
As for the container, use what you have. I used gallon pitchers last year. This year I am using some square, cheap food storage container I got from the Dollar Store. You could use a 5-gallon pail with a lid to. It all depends on how much you want. I will be steeping mine in the fridge, so the flat storage was a better fit. Traditionally though, cordial was made in a cool, dark cellar.
Anyway, you want to start pulling the blossoms off of your branches. It's okay if you have some bits of stem, but the general idea is to get just flowers. Pull off enough to cover the bottom of your container by about an inch. Like this:
See what I mean about getting most of the stem off? This can be kind of monotonous, but just like any crafting, its worth the effort. Set yourself up so you can watch TV or something while you "hull" your elder flowers. When you get them all done, set aside a cup or so of blossoms to add to a yellow cake. Soooo good.
Okay, so you have a layer of blossoms, now layer on some lemons:
Then layer on some sugar until everything is covered well:
Then do it again; blossoms, lemons, sugar until your container is full to the top.
The final step requires you to pour boiling water over the whole works. This should be cooking while you layer, so its all ready when you are. Fill up the container with boiling water. Your flowers are going to turn brown and wilt. That's perfectly okay. You are basically making tea right now. A really giant super sweet batch of tea.
Lol, that little white thing in the lower center of the photo is a sticker I missed from one of the lemons. Oops :)
When your cordial cools off to room temperature, put the cover on and slip it into the fridge or, if you have a cellar where it is nice and cool, take it there and let it sit for 5 to 7 days.
When the 5 to 7 days are up, you want to strain the cordial through a dishtowel or cheesecloth and dispose of the leftover flowers and lemons. If you like, you can boil the cordial to pasteurize it (you don't have to if you don't want to), pour it into jelly jars and place in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. When you are ready to use it, make a gallon of lemonade as you would normally make it and pour in 1 jar of cordial. You can also add it to a glass of ginger ale or tonic water to taste. Drink it super cold over ice.
If you would prefer a tea, keep the bundles of blossoms together and put them in a dehydrator or hang them upside down to dry.
I made my own drying area out of electric fencing wire that I twisted and welded into this sunflower hook thing (I also weld stuff) and strung a bit of jewelry wire between the 2 hooks. I then found some mini clothespins and used them to hold the herbs I am drying onto the wire. In this picture, I am drying some nettles, but you get the idea. You can do this with just a bit of string and a couple of nails on the wall. I just wanted to be fancy. You get the idea of what I have going on though:
You can also dry stuff in your oven with a pilot light, or if you don't have a pilot light, turn your oven on to 200 degrees and crack the door open overnight.
When your flowers are dry, you can pinch and pull them from the stem. Store your flowers in an airtight jar and use them like you would loose tea. If you want more flavor, add peppermint or another tea flavor and/or honey, lemon, sugar-whatever. However you use it, you are still reaping the medicinal benifits from your flowers.
Enjoy and be well!