Thursday, July 4, 2013

On the road to St. Germain

The elderflowers are blooming!  These are the umbrella-shaped blossoms of the elderberry, which grows  abundantly along country roads around here.
Pretty much every ditch has a patch of tall shrubs that look like this and smell so sweetly fragrant.
It is the leading edge of the brief elderflower season. The umbrels with  little white spheres are just in bud, not  truly flowering yet.  They will be ready in a couple of sunny days. It is interesting that one road will have  elderflowers at peak flower while another nearby will still be barely budded, extending the season.

Today, I  harvested a couple of bags of these flowers to make elderflower liqueur. Easy, snip them off into a grocery bag, However, some of the  other plants in the ditch are not so friendly --I waded through tall wild parsnip (which can cause  horrible blistery burns), prickly thistles, and lush  poison ivy to obtain my prize. I wore long pants and my muck boots. Don't harvest ALL of the flowers--you will also want there to be plenty of elderberries later this summer!
The recipe for making elderflower liqueur is very simple. Wash or shake off the  flowers to remove any insects or dust.  These blossom were so clean- I  harvested from a rural paved road after seeing how dusty the plants along the gravel road were. I only found one very tiny bug.
Remove the blossom from the stems, which purportedly  contain a toxin.  I started out snipping the flowers off with a scissors, but ended up stripping the  blossoms off the stems with my fingers. It takes a lot more umbrels than you expect, once you remove the flowers from the stems. I filled a 2-qt  mason jar with the blossoms, but you could  make any  amount.  The blossoms are then covered with vodka. I purchased  Prairie Vodka because it is sort of local (SW Minnesota) and is organic, plus it was on sale for a reasonable price. When I purchased the vodka, I asked if they sold elderflower liqueur and they do! It is a very pricey liqueur called "St. Germain. "
Steep the blossoms on in a cool dark place for a week up to month, swishing and turning the jar over over daily.  Then strain through fine cloth and add sugar to taste- about  1/4 cup sugar per quart. I am intending to try using honey from my own  bees, which will make it totally local and should add some  lovely subtle notes of raspberry and prairie flowers.

This is my first time making  elderflower liqueur, so I  don't have any more advice or insights yet--but I did find a yummy-sounding recipe for Elderflower Mojitos that i can't wait to try when the liqueur is ready in a few weeks! 

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