Elder Flowers

Leave it to Euell Gibbons to wax poetic about the culinary loveliness of elder flowers…then refer to them as elder blow.  Good one, Euell – that conjures up a lovely image.

Roger Konka, forager and farmer of Springwater Farm in St. Helens, OR, brought me a bouquet of elder flowers a couple of weeks ago.  I’d never worked with these delicately perfumed blossoms before, so I turned first to my favorite foraged foodstuffs book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and consulted Euell for advice.

Elder Flower Fritters
adapted from Euell Gibbons

Elder flowers make a lovely fritter.  You can also add the flowers to thin pancake or muffin batter.  Just mix up your favorite quick bread recipe and stir in as many elder flowers (stems removed) as it will hold.  It will make a wonderfully light and distinctly flavored product.

2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup AP flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder

Whisk together the eggs and milk.  Sift in the flour, sugar and baking powder, stirring gently until just incorporated.

Remove the coarse stem of the flower and dip the clusters in the batter.  Fry in oil heated to 375 degrees F for about 4 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel and if desired, either drizzle them with honey, powder them with sugar, or squeeze a little orange juice over the fritters and roll them in granulated sugar.  Serve piping hot.

I made these fritters at the market, and the elder flowers sold quite well.  I thought about the jelly recipe I use for Queen Anne’s Lace flowers (wild carrot), which surprisingly produces a honeyed floral jelly in precious pink (surprising because wild carrot smells a lot like carrot tops).  With a couple of adjustments, I produced a delightfully efflorescent crystal-like jelly, subtle and dainty, from the elder flower.  

I’m told that the European variety of elder flower (Sambucus nigra) is much more aromatic than the species that grows in Oregon (whose name I know not).  Regardless, I managed to make a fairly potent elder flower syrup with the blooms, which so far I’ve mixed with soda water, and found quite refreshing.  Even better, add some sliced fresh, ripe strawberries to the soda.  I think it might also be nice added to a glass of champagne, as you would add cassis to champagne for a kir royal.  In fact, there is an elderflower liquor, St. Germain, and lo and behold, the linked site has a similar cocktail recipe, using that liquor.

Lastly, I steeped some blow in champagne vinegar.  Not so crazy about this one.  The floral quality is lost, and the green of the stem makes the flavor sort of cucumber pickley.  Pickley -not really a word, but I like the sound of it!  Anyway, I might experiment with this one a little more.  I was hoping for a light, floral vinegar to splash on fruit salad or to use in a relish or chutney.  If I come up with something, I’ll keep you posted!

Elder Flower Syrup

I love Roger’s description of a “forager’s dozen”:
“Twelve is a dozen, thirteen a baker’s dozen, – I like to bundle up eleven and call it a forager’s dozen.”

1 “forager’s dozen” elder flower branches
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a pot.  Stir to dissolve sugar, then bring to a boil over a medium-high flame.  Remove the pot from the heat.

Pull the elder flowers from the coarse stems and push them down into the syrup.  Let the flowers steep until the syrup has cooled to room temperature.

Strain the syrup through a sieve, pressing lightly on the flowers to extract most of the syrup that clings to them.  Place the syrup in a glass jar, seal, and refrigerate.  Will last at least a couple of weeks, probably a month (experiment still in process).

Elder Flower Jelly
makes about 6 cups

I’m usually not a packaged-product pectin user, but I have not yet found an acceptable substitute for this recipe.  I’m working on it, and I’ll be sure to post an update when one is found!

3 cups firmly packed elder flowers, coarse stems removed
4 3/4 cups boiling water
3 1/2 cups sugar (1 1/2 pounds)
1 package Sure-Jell for low or no sugar recipes
4 1/2 Tbsp. strained lemon juice
1 Tbsp. St. Germain liquor (optional)

Cover the flowers with boiling water, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.  Strain the liquid, pressing gently on the flowers to extract the water.

Measure 4 cups of the strained infusion into a heavy bottomed preserving pot.  Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar with the Sure-Jell, and stir it into the liquid in the pot.  Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat.  Immediately stir in the remaining sugar, and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and St. Germain.  Skim the foam from the top of the jelly, and immediately pour into sterilized jars.  Cover with sterilized lids and seal.

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About Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

By offering Sage Culinary Advice, The Farmer's Feast assists Farmers' Market shoppers in making the most of their purchases, and helps vendors realize the culinary possibilities of their products. We create culinary education programs at Farmers' Markets. Through food preparation and cooking demonstrations, recipes focusing on technique, samples, stories and free advice, we're encouraging people to cook more often, from scratch, with market-fresh ingredients. Our goal? To cultivate domestic culinary arts. Once you've tasted the Farmer's Feast - glistening local produce, pastured meats, artisan cheese, wild seafood, rich nuts, grains and legumes - and see how easy cooking this bounty can be, you'll be hungry for fresh. Visit The Farmer's Feast on Facebook / E-mail wildeats@msn.com
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15 Responses to Elder Flowers

  1. Margit says:

    I’m not a fan of low/no sugar pectin. Would I have to make any changes in the recipe for regular pectin?

    • Hi Margit – I’m not sure. I don’t use low/no sugar pectin for anything but the flower jellies that I make – I’m not a huge fan of packaged pectins in general…more of a natural fruit pectin & sugar jammer. I do have excellent results with the low/no sugar pectin for this recipe, so I haven’t tried alternatives. I do think that regular pectin would result in a jelly that was extraordinarily sweet, though. If you give it a try, please let me know your results!

      • Margit says:

        Thank you SO much for your quick reply. I will try it with reg. pectin next year and let you know. I have made rose petal jelly that way and had excellent results with the regular kind.

  2. delicio8 says:

    I re-read your post because I’ve got my elderflowers picked and am about to try to make syrup. I’ll keep you posted. I have a possible suggestion for a substitute for pectin. Christine Ferber uses a green apple base for some of her jams and I know that guavas also have alot of natural pectin. I’m not sure however how much either of those would affect the taste.

    • Thanks for your suggestions. I love Christine Ferber’s techniques. I keep thinking of apple pectin, but don’t want to loose any of the subtle elderflower flavor. The pectin I use works just right – I love the results, so for me personally, I’m not rushing to make a switch. That said, if you do have success with an alternative to commercially produced pectin, I’d love to hear about it!
      Please let me know how your syrup turns out.

  3. delicio8 says:

    Oh I’ve been wanting to try elderflower syrup ever since I’ve heard of it but I have no idea where to find elderflower! I’m near Seattle so it must be available here if you are in Portland and it’s there right?!

    • Yes, I am in Portland, and yes, I do believe you would be able to find elder flower near Seattle. Is there a forager at one of your local Farmers’ Markets? They may be able to either supply you with the flowers, or clue you in on where to find them. Good luck!
      And if you make it down to Portland during elder flower season (April/May), look for them at the Springwater Farm booth at Portland Farmers’ Market.

      • delicio8 says:

        Thank you, I’ll have to look around here.

      • I enjoyed seeing your comment today when I returned home from an elderflower foray at Springwater Farm. I am perfumed by the blossoms, coated in yellow pollen, and scratched up by blackberry brambles & nettles. I’m about to steep the flowers for jelly-making tomorrow. All in all, very satisfying. Best of luck on your search!

      • delicio8 says:

        You know what’s funny?! I just realized that one of the trees in our yard is elderflower! I’m almost 100%. I just noticed this morning when I took the dog out and then I smelled it and it is fragrant so I’m doing some research online to make sure. Is there anything else you know of that looks similar.

      • I spoke today with Roger, the forager with whom I work, about elderflower look-alikes. He could not recall any that closely resemble elderflowers, but that said, do be sure you have the correct blossom for your syrup!

      • delicio8 says:

        I’m pretty sure they are correct because after I poured the syrup on them, the scent changed and I could smell the Sambuca smell. I read that they are used in making the liqour Sambuca and I could tell!

  4. Pingback: Moreland Farmers Market » Elder Flower Fritters

  5. Pingback: First of the Season – Strawberries! | The Farmer's Feast

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