Elderflower Foraging Recipes

Elderflower Foraging Recipes

A selection of our favourite foraging recipes for Elder flowers

As I write this I can look out of the office window and see literally hundreds of elderflower heads in the hedgerows surrounding the neighbouring fields. The late snows and dry spring of 2018 has led to them being a bit later than expected for North Wales, but the tardiness of arrival has been made up for in quantity!

Every year I try and make several batches of Elderflower Champagne, Elderflower Cordial and mix up some batter for Elderflower fritters. The tightly-clustered fragrant flowers are just so easy to use and to harvest – we’ve got more information on Elder foraging and other edible UK species in our Wild Food Directory here.

Elderflower Champagne Recipe

A popular and potentially explosive brew made from several heads of Elder flowers. Best stored in plastic bottles with screw tops. Anything that relies on a friction fit alone will probably just fire off, and glass bottles have been known to explode through buildup of pressure. You have been warned!

  • 8-10 Large Elderflower heads
  • 4.5 Litres cold water
  • 2 lemons (sliced)
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 750-800g sugar
  • champagne yeast (check for expiry date)
  • plastic bottles (see note above).

Method:

  1. Pick young, recently opened flowers (in the morning before prolonged exposure to the sun is ideal. Beware of picking too many from one shrub – try to spread your impact on the hedgerow out a little. Shake off any insects you find.
  2. Back in the kitchen remove the stalks from the florets with a fork – they will make the brew slightly bitter.
  3. Put the water in a clean saucepan or large pot, add the elderflower heads, lemon and cider vinegar.
  4. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  5. Sprinkle the champagne yeast on
  6. Cover (I use a clean cotton tea towel) and leave for 24 hours. Stir twice within that period with a clean wooden spoon.
  7. After the 24hrs is up bale out the liquid using a jug and pour through a sieve into the (cleaned) bottles. A funnel and a sense of determination helps.
  8. Put the caps on loosely and store somewhere temperature stable, cool but not cold and out of direct sunlight.
  9. The champagne will ferment over the next fortnight, after which the bottles can be properly closed and stored somewhere, again out of sunlight.
  10. Wait a few more days before sampling the first, and place in the fridge to chill before serving for best taste.

The champagne should keep for a few months, gradually getting ‘drier’ and more alocholic as time passes. If you discover that your plastic bottles have become rock-hard then VERY gently unscrew the lid, allow some gas to escape and then re-tighten. I have learned to my cost to do that OUTSIDE!.

elder bush uk
There's no shortage of Elderflowers at the moment
elderflower foraging recipes
Elderflower florets just starting to appear

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

This is the simpler, non-alcoholic version of Elderflower Champagne without the fizz or the time required.
You will need:

  • 10-15 elderflower heads
  • 2 lemons
  • 1-1.5Liters of water
  • 800g-1kg of granulated sugar
  • selection of bottles with lids

Method:

  1. Pick your elderflower heads (see tips on gathering and de-stalking in Elderflower Champagne recipe above)
  2. Boil the water and stir in the sugar to dissolve
  3. Add the lemon – some people prefer to zest and juice the lemons, others to slice and throw them in. I’ve had success both ways.
  4. Take the water off the boil and add the elderflower heads. Again, methods vary – I prefer to wait until it cools slightly, others just throw the florets in to the boiling pot.
  5. Cover and leave to stand for 24-48hrs, stirring every 12hrs or so with a clean wooden spoon.
  6. Strain the resulting mixture through muslin or sieve and decant into clean bottles. Glass or plastic should work fine as long as they have been properly cleaned/sterilised.
  7. Drink on its own (for the dedicated), dilute (for the majority) or add to other drinks and concoctions as you see fit. It will be usable for weeks but be wary of anything that has been bottled for too long.

Elderflower Fritter Recipe

Elderflower fritters have got to be the easiest way to work with foraged elder flowers, and are a good way of actually consuming them rather than extracting the flavour for champagne or cordial as above.

You will need:

  • 5-10 elderflower heads, picked when young but open and devoid of insects (give them a shake)
  • 100g of plain white flour
  • 2 tbsp of oil (plus more oil for pan)
  • 175-200ml sparkling water
  • 1 tbsp of sugar for batter
  • small bowl of caster sugar for dipping, amount to taste
  • White of one egg

Method:

  1. Gather your elderflower heads, de-insect them and break the umbel of florets down into the smaller sections on each stalk (take the big cluster and divide into the smaller cluster, leaving the short stem attached)
  2. Sift the flour into a basin, add the oil and sparkling water
  3. Beat to a paste then stir in the sugar. Set to one side for 30 minutes or so.
  4. Rinse elderflower heads in cold water
  5. Heat pan of oil (about 1-2cm deep). Test oil temperature with a cube of white bread – it should change to golden-brown in seconds.
  6. Fold the egg white into the batter paste immediately before next step
  7. Dip floret of elderflower into batter then lower them carefully into oil, holding the floret by the stem and pushing down slightly to immerse it in the oil
  8. Fry until batter is golden and crisp, then carefully lift from oil and dip into bowl of caster sugar (A short visit to some kitchen paper between pan and sugar will help remove excess oil).
  9. Consume immediately – cold elderflower fritters can taste a little odd but warm ones are fantastic!

They go well with drizzled honey or tart fruit sauces. I have also served them alongside freshly-cooked fish, but there is a lot of cooking and faffery to look after at the same time so may be best attempted with an assistant!

UK Foraging Courses

We have been running foraging courses in the fields, woodlands and on the beaches of North Wales and Snowdonia for many years now, and they are still our most popular one-day courses. You can learn more about our courses by clicking on the links below.

Richard Prideaux is a partner of Original Outdoors and our lead instructor. For more than a decade he has worked in outdoor education, expedition leadership, safety and management, mountain rescue and SAR and coaching and personal development.

He has also worked with international restaurants and chefs as a professional forager and advisor and appeared on several television and radio productions.

He lives in North Wales on the borders of Snowdonia National Park.

Course report - Wild Camping Weekend June 2018
Elder Sambucus nigra

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