Elderflowers by the River

I love making sparkling (fizzy) drinks for the summer.  Children of course generally crave “soft drinks”, but my concern is that they are laden with artificial additives that, even if they do no harm (which is doubtful) they certainly are not doing us any good.  They are also really overloaded with sugar.  Maybe go for the sugar free diet drinks you might think?  Read the labels and you will be horrified at the list of artificial additives on the label.

For the upcoming holiday season why not make your own “soft drinks” from fresh seasonal  fruits?  Over the next couple of days I will put up a recipe that can be applied to all sorts of fruit, making the most of cheaper prices as the season progresses.  The drinks are not only tasty and nutritious but free of artificial additives.

Even some flowers can be used.  For instance, we spent the morning, daughter Stephanie and I, down by the Derwent River at New Norfolk picking elderflowers from the multitude of trees that grow so well there.  These trees are outstanding with masses of sprays of tiny delicate white flowers with their heady fragrance filling the air around them.  We picked three garbage bags full, well almost – a bit excessive perhaps.  I plan to make the sparkling elderflower drink that I’ve been making for so many years now.  To me it always seems like magic in a bucket – a few simple ingredients turn into a lovely, sparkling, refreshing drink, again totally free of artificial additives.

The recipe of course is in my book “A Year in a Bottle”.  I now have an extra tip for anyone who makes it – make sure that you just use the flower heads.  It’s simple to do, I just use a pair of scissors.  If you include any of the stalk part, it give the drink a grassy type of flavour which is not so nice.

After preparing a couple of batches of the sparking drink, I plan to make elderflower cordial syrup.  Now any time I’ve made it before, it’s gone off quite quickly. As I have the luxury of so many elderflowers today, I’m determined to make a cordial that keeps well.  It has to be possible, so watch this space as I’ll post the recipe as soon as I’ve mastered it.

For those who would like it, in the meantime here is the recipe for sparkling elderflower.  A little tip – you can substitute 300g fragrant (unsprayed) rose petals for the elderflowers to make a truly delightful summer drink.  Use any colour rose, but the deep red varieties give the best colour.

Sparkling Elderflower

3 cups sugar

4 cups boiling water

14 cups cold water

6 medium or 4 large elderflower heads

2 lemons, chopped

2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in 4 cups of boiling water in a food safe bucket.

Add the other 14 cups of (cold) water, the elderflower heads, lemon and vinegar.

Stir to mix well, then cover with a tea towel.

Allow to stand for 48 hours, then strain (first through a colander, then liquid through a fine sieve), bottle** and seal. (only fill the bottles to the use of the neck).

**PET bottles (such as empty soft drink bottles or buy them new from home brewing shops – they can be re-used) are best as they allow for a degree of expansion without exploding.

The sparkling elderflower will be ready in two weeks, maybe sooner.

Chill before opening, and open carefully.

Makes about 4.5 litres.

27 thoughts on “Elderflowers by the River

  1. Sue Roberts says:

    Hi Sally, thanks for the inspiration for the cordial making. I picked a few more flowers than I had sugar for on the weekend so am experimenting with freezing the flowers until I am ready to make the next batch. Not sure how it will go but as I have a very limited supply of flowers thought it was worth trying. Also having had a similar problem with cordials going off quickly, I have tried to preserve them by bottling in small PET bottles (home brew type) and keep them in the freezer until I want to use them. This seems to work fine. I have done this with blackcurrant, plum, raspberry and kiwi fruit cordials so now I have added elderflower to the list.

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Sue – I was told by a wine maker that elderflowers discolour when they are frozen so I’ve not tried it. I love your idea of freezing the cordial syrup, very clever indeed. It would also mean you could lower the sugar levels to some degree. I have preserved syrup in my Fowlers kit in times past (ones with lower sugar that definitely required it) but that means that you need to use their bottles for the purpose or buy heat-proof ones, which can be expensive. It’s a much better option to freeze the cordial the way you do.

      Many thanks for the tip!

      Regards
      Sally

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  2. Carolyn Rimmer says:

    Hi Sally
    I made my first batch of elderflower concentrate cordial a couple of weeks ago. About how long does it last for before going off ?
    Regards
    Carolyn

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    • Sally Wise says:

      It depends on your recipe Carolyn. I have made several that didn’t keep well at all, maybe just a couple of weeks. Recently I made up my own recipe and this is holding well with no sign of spoilage for several weeks now. I’ve not needed to refrigerate it. A good way to extend the shelf life of the of the one you’ve made (to be on the safe side) is to refrigerate it. If you are short on fridge space, try freezing it as this will hold it for ages.

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  3. Mel Davey says:

    Hi Sally, I love your Elderflower recipe but am finding it impossible to find a nursery that stocks elderberry flowers. I would appreciate it so much if you knew of any. I have recently moved to a property and love your recipes and ideas.

    Smiles, Mel 🙂

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Mel – are you in Tasmania? If so, near Hobart? Often Chandlers Nursery will have more unusual things. Let me know anyway, where you are living and I’ll see if I can find some-one who stocks them. Actually, belatedly, I think Stonemans Garden Centre has them or at the very least, can get them in.

      Sally

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      • Sally Wise says:

        I will ring Stonemans for you tomorrow and see if they have any and, if so, whether they have some sort of depot up north near you. We have grown some elderflower trees from suckers that have come out from the base of existing trees.

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      • Sally Wise says:

        Hi Mel – sorry for delay in getting back to you. I have tried nurseries down here but with the same result as you unfortunately. I will keep asking when I am out and about, also have a scout about under local trees to see if there are any suckers near their roots that I could dig out for you. There are many elderflower trees down by the river. We have family who goes ‘north’ often – maybe they could leave it somewhere for you to pick up? A lady came to a cooking class here last week and took some from under our trees for her garden. We should have more though before too long. One way or another, should be able to sort something for you.

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  4. Mel says:

    Hi Sally, thankyou for the all of your kind efforts in tracking down elderflowers. I am coming to Hobart from Thursday to Saturday and will travel anywhere down there to get some plants so if you have any leads I would really appreciate it as I would love get some growing up here and make some of your amazing recipes.
    Kind regards,
    Mel 🙂

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Mel – have found some elderflower ‘suckers’ for you. This is what our trees have grown from. We will dig them out for you today (they are in our daughter’s garden). You could come out here to pick them up tomorrow if you like. Should be able to get at least two for you.

      Regards
      Sally

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      • Mel says:

        Thankyou Sally!! How wonderful!
        Will you be there tomorrow mid afternoon? I’m taking my little guy to the cricket this evening 🙂

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      • Sally Wise says:

        Hi Mel – no, so sorry. I have to do a presentation at the Taste of Tasmania Festival tomorrow afternoon. I will see if my daughter will be home – they are in her garden and she lives close by in New Norfolk. I will let you know later this evening after I have spoken with her.

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      • Sally Wise says:

        Hi Mel – yes, you could pick them up from our daughter’s. Stephanie is her name. They live at 3 Fowler Court, New Norfolk. If they go out for any reason, she will leave them on the doorstep for you.

        Mid afternoon I have told her you will be there. If that changes, can you let me know? She wants to be sure to have them dug up and ready for you.

        Regards
        Sally

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Mel – Stephanie said you picked up the plants from her doorstep. She apologises that they are wilted, however, they were only dug up at 12 noon and she did put water in the bag. It’s just the weather and they will recuperate.

      Good luck with them. They should produce flowers within a year.
      Sally

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      • Mel says:

        Thankyou Sally & Stephanie, they are home & recovering while I research where to best plant them.
        Smiles & sunshine, Mel 🙂

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  5. Lucie Mostyn says:

    Hi Sally,

    I made some elderflower cordial a few weeks ago and its been in the fridge ever since. I made quite a lot and I haven’t gotten through it all yet… how do you tell if its gone off? And how dangerous do you recon it is to drink gone off cordial (I don’t want to waste it as its so good!)
    Thank you
    Lucie

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    • Sally Wise says:

      It should be fine seeing as you’ve kept in in th fridge. Any sign of spoilage though – for instance, if it’s fizzing or mouldy or smells funny, you will need to throw it out.

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      • Lucie Mostyn says:

        HI Sally, Thank you for your reply. Its not showing any of those signs yet (fizzy/mould etc) but after reading the comments on here I also put some in the freezer just to make sure 🙂
        Thank you

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  6. Lucie Mostyn says:

    Hi Sally,

    I made some elderflower cordial a dew weeks ago and have kept it in the fridge since then. I haven’t finished it all as there was so much and I’m concerned that its gone off… how do you tell if its gone off? Also how dangerous do you think it is to drink old elderflower cordial? its too good and i don’t want to throw it out!
    Thank you
    Lucie
    (sorry if this posts twice, I had some difficulties with the website)

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Lucie – if it isn’t fizzing when you take off the lid and if there is no mould, it should be fine. Keeping it in the fridge is a good move. However, always be sure to look for any signs of spoilage. The cordial, unopened should keep for weeks, especially as you have kept it in the fridge.

      Regards
      Sally

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  7. Marilyn says:

    Hi Sally ,I am planning a visit to New Norfolf to pick some elder flowers for cordial , is there a particular spot that is good to pick them ,I know you said by the river but it’s a big river and I don’t know New Norfolk very well ,I wondered when the best time would be to pick the flowers I remember the cordial and elderberry wine from my childhood and am looking forward to tasting it again ,many thanks for a great site ,

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Marilyn – there are some near the roundabout (rhs of road) opposite almost from the Junction Motel (just a few metres back towards Hobart). There was, and most likely still is, a large tree down new the caravan park – left hand side of the road. Regards, Sally

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  8. Kathryn says:

    Hi Sally, I’ve just discovered the wonders of home made fruit fizzy cordials, it’s amazing!! I have made Rhubarb already and now am onto Elderflower, but am wondering 2 things:

    1. Why is there so much less Vinegar in the elderflower as apposed to the fruit version? We had assumed that the vinegar was acting as a bit of a preservative in the fruit version…

    2. Why the sugar needs dissolving for the elderflower ??

    Thanks
    Kathryn

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Kathryn – I’ve been told that the vinegar is to do with slowing down of the effervescing factor. The sugar being dissolved for the elderflower – well, you can do this for the fruit ones too if you want (I sometimes do, but it’s not so necessary). However, fruit has a much higher acid level that the tiny elderflowers and this acid helps to dissolve the sugar.

      Glad you like the fizzy drinks. I love them too.

      Sally

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