Food for free: elderflower vinegar, cordial and champagne
It’s taken a while. For heaven’s sake, we were drinking homemade elderflower cordial in West Cork more than two weeks ago! Finally North Cork has caught up and this past weekend was the perfect weather for elderflower gathering. It was still, warm and heavy; there was lots of precious pollen on the blooms and it wasn’t being blown away, at least when I went out with my basket. A little later, on our backroads walk, the breeze picked up a little and, as we marched along with pushchair and backpack, the air was positively intoxicating with the musky scent of elderflower from ditches a whole field away. Well worth capturing.
Little Missy and I set up an assembly area in the yard outside and before long had made elderflowers steeping for vinegar, a quick cordial and – my favourite – fermented elderflower champagne. None of these recipes take much effort, just lemons, sugar, vinegar, citric acid (easily found in any chemist) and some decently big jars or buckets.
This is one of the simplest things that you can do with elderflowers, nothing needed but time. I use Ballyhoura Apple Farm raw cider vinegar.
Don’t wash or shake the elderflowers – you want to keep the pollen in there – but do pick over them carefully to avoid insects and cut the flowers off from the green stalks. Fill your jar with elderflowers, pour over enough cider vinegar to cover and sit in a sunny position, shaking daily, for three weeks or until you are happy with the flavour. Strain through a muslin (I repurpose one that I had for the babies!) into a bottle and label.
Uses: drizzled over fish, sweetened with honey in a mug of hot water, in salad dressings, with gooseberries, as an additive to homemade lemonade.