Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Plant an elder to keep the devil away!
In Scandinavia we are seeing a sudden burst of white profusion in the hedgerows. It's the elderflowers. As spring moves into summer elders (sambucus nirga) come into flower. Whilst they have just their leaves they are fairly unassuming trees, but as they flower they become a mass of fragrant white blooms.
Elders are really adaptable and versatile trees that like to grow on roadsides, waste ground and by rivers. They grow in temperate and sub-tropical areas almost everywhere in the world.
Elders are substantial trees that can grow up to 15m in height and live for 60 years. In Scandinavia they are most often found growing in hedgerows and by the side of roads. They are not so commonly used in my home of Norway, but in Sweden they are a highly prized forage. I am sure anyone who has visited IKEA has seen rows of elderflower cordial for sale. And that's one of the recipes I am going to share with you.
But first let's make sure we are collecting the right thing!
Elder is easy to identify by it brackets of white flowers. The flower heads can be as wide as your hand and the tiny blossoms grow from a single flower stem into an umbrella of flowers. They are really fragrant with a heady aroma especially in the summer sun.
The leaves grow from a single stem and always in rows of 3-5.
The flowers and fruit are edible, but the green parts of elder are not palatable, so when we are preparing them we need to be sure to remove as much of the green parts as possible.
Pick the elderflowers when they are in full bloom and in the middle of the day after plenty of sun. The fragrance is the best at that time. I like to cut the flower stem off with scissors and carefully place them in a basket so as not to loose too many of the flowers.
Sometimes the flowers can be homes for tiny little insects. It's tempting to wash them but don't!! Just gently shake out the insects.
Friterade Flåderblommor (elderflower fritters) is a classic Swedish recipe that you probably won't see on the average restaurant menu, but is something that your Swedish grandma has in her repertoire. I love these simple recipes that are held close and remind us of simpler times when delicacies were something that were found growing in the hedgerows and around our homes.
This recipe is crispy, sweet and light and the perfect summertime treat with a light dusting of powdered sugar.
Friterade Flådderblommor (Elderflower fritters)
12 elderflower heads
100g /4 oz plain, all purpose flour
300ml / 10 fl oz milk
A pinch of salt
Oil for frying (such as rapeseed or sunflower)
Icing sugar or powdered sugar for dusting
Shake out the elderflower heads to remove any insects.
Put the flour, egg and salt into a bowl and gradually add the milk, whisking well, until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the oil into a a deep pan to about 3cm / 1.5 inches deep. Heat the oil until a small piece of bread dropped in pops to the surface and turns brown in about 30 seconds.
Holding the stalk of the elderflower dip each one into the batter and let the excess run off. Immediately place into the hot oil and let them fry for a minute on each side. They will be a light golden brown when they are cooked. Carefully lift the flowers out onto kitchen paper to drain.
To serve, place them on a plate and dust lightly with icing sugar.
Elderflower fritters are lovely served with ice-cream or a fruit coulis. Simplicity itself!
This next recipe is one of my perennial favourites and always make several batches to keep us going thorough the winter.
Elderflower cordial is one of my favourite summer drinks. It's fragrant and flowery and reminds me summer all through the cold winter months. The recipe is so easy and quick and it'll take you longer to pick the flowers than to make the cordial. For a longer shelf life, process your bottles of cordial using a waterbath method.
25 elderflower heads
1 litre / 34 fl oz freshly boiled water
Approx 700g / 1 lb 8 oz white sugar
Pick the flowers off the elder stems and put them in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over the boiled water and leave to cool. Once cooled put it in the fridge overnight to give the elderflowers a chance to steep. You can leave the flowers to steep for 2 days if you like a nice strong cordial.
The following day strain the elderflower liquid through a scolded muslin or cloth over a sieve. Give the flowers a squeeze to get all the flavour out.
Measure the liquid and pour it into a pan. For every 1 litre of liquid add 700g white sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar and boil for about 5 minutes until you have a light syrup.
Whilst it's still hot pour into warm, sterilised bottles and seal. Store in a cool dark place. The cordial will keep like this for several months.
So what are you waiting for!! Let's get outside and capture a little piece of summer to remind ourselves of those long days full of flowers when the colder days arrive.