Having just made a non-alcoholic elder flower cordial for a Cordials & Liqueurs workshop at the store, I decided I needed to make more for the herbal apprentice class coming up in a few weeks. But where to find elder flowers? Faith, my fellow herbalist and teacher, had brought the elder flowers to the workshop and I knew they were passing their prime quickly. Driving home yesterday taking my usual backroad shortcuts, I glanced over at the woods and what did I see - flowering elder! I drove past again and clocked the mileage from the trees to home, exactly 2 miles. I could bike there in the morning and pick the elder flowers.
So this morning the adventure began. I just got my bike last week, deciding with my husband that we needed to do something to get into shape as well as have something we would enjoy doing together. I went out once and made it about a mile or so. But this should be easy, what is 4 miles round trip?
Alot, at least for me. Setting out around nine to beat the hot humid weather forecasted for the day didn't work. It was hot and humid. I had made my usual fruit yogurt shake for breakfast, and when I took a sip of the ice cold water I had brought, Vesuvius broke out in my stomach. About a mile and a half in, I pulled over, sat on someone's lawn and thought I would lose breakfast. But it passed, and I was determined to get to the elder.
Heading to my spot, I passed another elder. Ha ha! I don't have to bike the full 4 miles and can still get my elder flowers. As I approached the flowers I saw the large swath of poison ivy surrounding it. Faith had encountered prehistoric size mosquitos in her elder flower quest, and my bane was poison ivy. So I decided to pass walking in the poison ivy and to reach my original destination.
I biked, I walked, I wanted to throw up and I reached "my" elder flowers. They were beautiful, and also surrounded by poison ivy. I was picking them, poison ivy or not! After all this I was not going home without elder flowers. So I gingerly walked through the poison ivy, picked the flowers and headed back home.
I started feeling a bit better on the way back and took it easy, walking the bike up the hills. There are no flat roads around here! I stopped at the first elder I had found, and the flowers were beautiful and in their prime so I decided to brave the poison ivy and pick some more. Thankfully the poison ivy was also surrounded by jewelweed, so after picking I opened the stems of some jewelweed, smeared it all over my legs and hoped for the best. Poison ivy and I have a long, painful history and I treat it with much respect and usually stay as far away as possible.
With a bag full of elder flowers, I headed home. Reaching the center of town, I noticed St John's wort blooming. Well how could I ride past that? So I stopped and picked St John's wort flowers to make an oil. I had only brought one bag, so the St John's wort went in with the elder flowers, mixing colorfully.
I got home, got out the Tecru and washed all over in fear of the poison ivy oil and jumped in the pool to cool off.
Refreshed, I sorted out the elder and St John's wort flowers and made an infusion of the elder flowers and set the St John's wort flowers to wilt a bit before making the oil.
Here's the elder flower cordial recipe that started the whole adventure. It is well worth it! It makes a lot, so can be reduced. I am infusing the elder flower in the water to freeze it, and then make the syrup in a few weeks.
English Elderflower Cordial
5 cups water
3 pounds sugar
1 lemon, sliced
25 large elderflower heads
6 tablespoons citric acid
Sparkling or still mineral water to dilute
Place the water in a large plan and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and lemon and remove from the heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Place on the heat again and return to a boil. Add the elderflower heads and citric acid and bring to a boil once more. Remove from the heat and leave to stand until cool. Strain and bottle in clean bottles with corks. This can be drunk immediately. If stored in a cool place, it should keep about three months. When serving, dilute with 5 parts water and add ice.
Yield: approximately 2 quarts of syrup
Source: Drink to Your Health, Anne McIntyre