26 May 2009

Elderflower or Sambuco Syrup

It's elderflower season again.
The valley is flush with monstrous lacy white whorls of flowers, weighting down the branches of this sometimes maligned understory tree. Considered by some to be just a bothersome weed of a tree, as it has a lot of tiny blue seedy berries, that will stain your car and driveway and if the little darling birds leave you pressies, well... you get the picture, but I am rather fond of them myself. It's such a fragrant flower too. The flowers remind me of a plant, Queens Anne's Lace, that was abundant where I grew up in southern Illinois.
I think it is a wonderful tree, as there are quite a variety of things you can do with the abundance of flowers and fruit. We make fruit jam in the autumn that is reminiscent of blackberry jam and syrup from the flowers in the spring. I must say that I didn't really get introduced to the wonders of this plant until I started working in Slovenia and Austria and was introduced to the wonderful world of cordials that make a refreshing drink from a combination of sparkling water and various fruit and flowery syrups. There were so many varieties. In the mountain houses you could always count on some type of flavor to make the already tasty mountain water just that much more exciting.
So when I found we had quite a few trees here in our neighborhood, I went in search of a recipe. This was a few years back and I couldn't find much on the Internet, except for a simple recipe with out too many instructions. I mad a few critical mistakes the first few times i tried it, but each time I keep refining the process along the way. It really is quite easy to make, just a bit difficult to know exactly the proportions of flowers to use for a batch, but it is pretty forgiving. I did find a blog post with step by step photo instructions here, a year or so back that is pretty helpful. I hadn't tried the sterilizing of the bottles until this year when one of my guests left me his resealable beer bottles with the comment that his mother uses them for here elderflower syrup. Ah hah, a seemingly good alternative to my clear bottles that I have had trouble getting sterile and thereby losing some of the precious liquid due to a film of mold forming on the surface. I think this year I will have better success with this method, as the dark bottles are very good at discouraging the little bothersome mold issue.
I love to use the syrup as a nice addition to our fruit compote that we make in the mornings for breakfast or other times. It gives a nice little extra something that is usually appreciated. I have a feeling you'll find all kinds of other uses for it as well. It is purported to be good for coughs and sore throats as well. We usually go through the stuff pretty quickly as we continue to find all sorts of uses. I think you will too.
The photos of our trees are from last year, as our trees have still yet to flower. Our mountain trees are some of the last to bloom. I thought that most of you out there may have already had the season come and go, but there still might be time to put a little away. Make sure you don't deplete your supply too much as you will want to make jam in the late summer and leave some for the birds as well.

Elderflower and immature elderberries

Elderflower/ Sambuco Syrup

2.5 kg sugar
1.5 liters water

Bring the sugar and water just to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from heat. I let it cool slightly before I added the flowers and peel

25 elder flowers, cleaned* ( I counted them as the whorl on the stem and used very large ones)
6 lemon peels, grated into the syrup.
Let stand for 2-3 days before straining into sterilized** bottles.
I strained the syrup through a cheese cloth lined strainer and then decant into sterilized bottles.

Store in a cool dark place.
I usually try to use it all before next years crop comes in.

This reipce can easily be doubled, but I find the smaller batch easier to manage.
*Clean the flowers by plunging them into cool water. You will lose a lot of pollen, but also dust and bugs. I cut the large stem and most of the stem as I could off as I felt like it added a strong stemy taste to it final product.
**I used his method of sterilizing them by heating them in an oven at 150*C/300* F for 10 minutes. I was a bit skeptical at first, but with these heavy duty bottles and the metal and stopper parts removed, I tried it and it seems to have worked just fine, no breakage.
I let them cool before filling.

This years yield


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have only seen Elberberries in the Eastern provinces...it makes nice wine too:D

Bella Baita Marla said...

Wine I haven't tried, but would love to sometime. So many things to try, so little time!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This sounds heavenly. I know I don't have any Elderflowers on our street but perhaps I'll come across one on my morning walks.
I think I remember my grandmother doing something like this.

Lori Lynn said...

That is some project Marla, sounds like it was worth the effort.
We just returned from Paris and were served foie gras with elderberry juice. Delicious!

Bella Baita Marla said...

It is heavenly, very perfumy essence. It sounds very interesting to have with foie gras indeed.

joe@italyville said...

Very nice Marla... there's nothing better than rolling up your sleeves and making it "homemade"

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