Ever Made Elderberry Syrup?

elderberry syrup

Because you should. The stuff is all around now to be harvested and enjoyed.

Elderflowers do get more of the spotlight when it comes to making cordial. Early summer and the heady white blossoms may be gone, but they are replaced with the umbrella-shaped clusters of blue-black fruit: welcome elderberries!

Please note: Eating uncooked elderberries, leaves, bark or roots can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Also, when I’m talking about the elder plant I refer to European or Black Elder (Sambucus nigra). If you are collecting the flowers or berries yourself, ensure that you have correctly identified the plant as other types of elder may be more toxic.

That said, elderberry is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants, it’s usually taken as a supplement to treat cold and flu symptoms. In folk medicine, the berries are also known to be used as remedy for infections, sciatica, headaches, dental pain, heart pain and nerve pain, as well as a laxative and diuretic. Elderberries have many nutritional benefits as well: a good source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.

All that in a berry. And they taste great too, so go and pick some – the funky tart aroma is so unique! Making elderberry syrup is not a big deal at all, the recipe only calls for 3 ingredients: the berries, sugar and citric acid. When filled into sterilized bottles, the syrup has a decent shelf life of 12 months (as with any other canned product, discard if color, texture, taste or smell has changed). Refrigerate after opening.

A few tips, before you begin: wear rubber gloves when handling the berries, they stain everything deep purple. Wash berries after you have removed them from the stems. Mature berries will sink and remaining stems, immature berries, leafy matter and insects will float. You can store washed berries in ziploc bags in your freezer, or you may dry them as well for later use.

Drink simply diluted with water, or mix it up with lemon, mint or ginger. Just the type of refreshment you need in this heat!

Elderberry Syrup

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Tasty, refreshing syrup made from the blue-black berries of the elder plant. Makes cca. 3,5 l syrup.

Ingredients

1 kg elderberries, stems removed

1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs sugar

3 l / 12 cups water

2 ½ tsp citric acid

Directions

  1. Wearing latex gloves, pick elderberries from stems. Wash.
  2. In a large pot, bring berries and water to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 30 min. stirring occasionally.
  3. Strain/press through a fine sieve.
  4. Add sugar and citric acid to juice, bring to a boil. Cook syrup uncovered for 15 min, until sugar has dissolved and syrup-y consistency is reached.
  5. Fill into sterilized bottles with the help of a funnel and ladle.
  6. Keep in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening.

Love,

Fruzsi

Image: Laura Muthesius / Our Food Stories

Advertisements

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

balsamic reduction sauce

Hmm, balsamic vinegar. Either you absolutely love it or hate it, there’s no other way around the matter. You could probably guess which side I’m on based on the fact this post is bearing the name in the title.

This aged elixir of grapes is known since the Middle Ages. Highly valued by chefs and increasingly popular in everyday cooking, balsamic vinegar is not only the base component of my favorite vinaigrette and marinades, but is great as a glaze, brings the flavors nicely together in soups and sauces, and definitely a partner in crime when braising.

My latest obsession is Crema di Balsamico, a thick, sweet-and-sour syrup over, well, a great many things actually. My go-to used to be Deluxe Crema di Balsamico and Italiamo Crema con Aceto Balsamico di Modena from Lidl. A real treat, I can only recommend both. I’ve always found the price a bit steep for those tiny bottles, but a girl has to splurge occasionally, isn’t that so?

You’ve recognized I used past tense though. The reason being, my current idée fixe just got cheaper. I was reading a recipe the other day which called for reducing a sauce instead of a classic roux, and you know what? Turns out the same thickening method is used to make balsamic sauce.

I had two bottles of the less expensive supermarket own brand Acetino (also IGP – Indicazione Geografica Protetta of Modena) in my pantry, so I’ve decided to give homemade Crema di Balsamico a go. And guess what, it is amazing! That rich, sweet, complex taste… still tangy but not offensively acidic at all.

Even the first batch turned out so good I found myself licking fingers to save every last drop from the pan. Now that I’ve acquired the know-how, I have a long list of dishes both sweet and savory in mind I want to drizzle with my very own balsamic reduction. And since I’m not one to keep knowledge like this to myself, here’s how you can make it too:

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A sweet glaze with a lovely complex flavor.

Ingredients

500 ml (2 cups) balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, stir occasionally.
  3. When half of the liquid has evaporated (somewhere around 45 min to 1 hour), your sauce is ready.
  4. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container. No need to refrigerate.

It should outlive all of us, but only if you forget where you kept it. Otherwise it will be gone very soon.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Image via The Creative Bite

Elderflower Cordial, the Season’s Must

elderflower

Weather has turned from Red Wine Please to Rosé S’il Vous Plait. In other words – if you happen to be the designated driver – it’s lemonade season! Today I’m here to help you step up your refresher game with elderflower-infused syrup, a drink very popular here in Central Europe.

Fragrant and refreshing, elderflower cordial is great mixed with seltzer water, makes sensational spritzers with white wine, or add a dash to a gin or vodka and tonic to start an early summer party in style. Also available commercially year-round, but I think you need no convincing that home-made is the real deal.

Elder plants are very common, frequenting woodland fringes and hedgerows. They are not really tall enough to count as trees, but rather too big for a shrub as well. Elderflower season runs from late May to early July.

Culinary uses of the flowers and berries are varied and many, from tea to relishes to flavoring in several food products. Note that leaves, twigs, roots and uncooked berries of the elder plant are toxic and should not be consumed!

The flat-topped sprays of white flowers have a distinctly sweet, heady fragrance. The best cordial is made from freshly picked elderflowers; choose the morning hours of a dry day to harvest. Collecting the flowers is a good excuse to get your SO on a walk by the way. 🙂 Oh, and do yourself a favor not to pick from roadsides, you don’t want petrol fumes infusing your drinks.

I’ve read somewhere that half-opened clusters have the most flavor in them. Trim as much stem off as you can, than place carefully in a bag or basket so pollen, the source of flavor will not be lost. Do not wash them back home, try brushing off insects and any other dirt instead before you start.

The rest is easy, cordial is based on simple syrup. All you need besides the pretty blossoms are sugar, water, lemons, citric acid and a little patience. High concentration of sugar and sterilized containers give the cordial decent shelf life.

Elderflower Cordial

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Fragrant and refreshing cordial made from the cream flowers of the elder plant.

Ingredients

30 elderflower clusters

1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs sugar

1,5 l / 6 cups water

2-3 lemons

50 g / 3 ½ tbsp citric acid

Directions

  1. Make simple syrup: pour water and sugar in a large pot, heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to a simmer, turn off heat.
  2. Wash and slice lemons, put slices in the syrup.
  3. Place elderflowers in the syrup, stems up. Cover pot with lid.
  4. Let infuse for 24 hours.
  5. Drain liquid through a fine sieve or a piece of muslin fabric.
  6. Add citric acid and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, than fill into sterilized bottles with the help of a funnel.
  7. Store refrigerated after opening.

How easy is that? Bring a bottle of cordial to the next garden party you’re attending! The 0,5 l (17 oz) reusable Ikea KORKEN bottle makes a perfect vessel for just $1.99, or you could finally put those beer bottles with stoppers you kept to good use. (Why did I use second person when those were my beer bottles?)

If, for some incomprehensible reason you’re not into the aroma of elderflower, you can always refer to my post on lavender syrup to give your rose spritzers or plain old lemonade a twist. Mint syrup, an essential to every well-represented home bar is also made similarly.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Homemade Lavender Syrup

homemade-lavender-syrup-title

The end of June marked the beginning of lavender season and the shrubs at my parents’ were ready for harvest. Bees and butterflies were not pleased when Sis and I picked the spikes, but would you just look at these!

homemade-lavender-syrup-shrubs

I’ve also planted lavender along our driveway this spring, they seem to like their place. Even though it’s just their first season, they are full of flowers. We live a stone’s throw from my parents, but our plants start flowering a little later.

Anyway, the purple buds have been drying on the purpose-built screens and since we were getting very high temperatures lately, they were ready to be shredded from the stems in a matter of days. It took us girls some time and wine to finish, but the scent! Moths in the county went extinct that’s for sure.

homemade-lavender-syrup-screen

The last few years we used to make bouquets, wands, and fill pouches with the flowers. Lovely as they were, making them was getting boring so we started looking for new ways to utilize the yield. One idea I particularly like is lavender syrup. Because summer is the time for endless pitchers of cold, refreshing lemonade, and adding a twist to a classic is very on-trend lately. Turned out that lemon and lavender are a match made in heaven: it takes the drink to a whole new level!

homemade-lavender-syrup-shade

I was weary using lavender in a drink at first to be honest, for I could only associate it with beauty products before, but this syrup turned out so convincing that this season I’m flavoring other foods with the lilac buds as well. I have infused jams, honey, sugar and seasoning salts in mind, I’ll let you know how the experimenting goes.

Back to the matter at hand: making lavender syrup is easy peasy. I’ve shared syrup basics before so without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Lavender Syrup

Ingredients

1 l water
1 kg sugar
15 g (3/4 cup) dried lavender flowers
10 g (2 tsp) citric acid

Directions

  1. Make 1:1 simple syrup, turn heat off.
  2. Add lavender flowers in a mesh bag and let soak overnight to infuse. Liquid will turn inky blue.
  3. Remove lavender and add citric acid (this will transform color to rosé).
  4. Bring to a boil, then pour into sterilized jars and seal hot to form high vacuum.
Makes 1,5 l syrup. Although it should not be necessary, I’d keep in the fridge after opening. Syrup has a decent shelf life.

Do you have lavender in your garden or on your patio? What do you do with the flowers? Flash out those ideas for me!

Also, have you noticed the recipe format? I am trying to improve my shortcoding and decided on embedding recipes with consistent formatting and an option to print from now on to make the experience better for you!

Fruzsi

Homemade Mint Syrup

mint leaves

After quite a few rainy days we are finally getting some sunshine here. How’s your herb garden doing? Asking because if you want to preserve some of your mint, now’s the time to do it. I found that mine is healthiest and lushest around this period. After overblowing in June, it’s growth slows down and shoots become tougher.

Academic literature (a.k.a. google) too advises to harvest before the plant blooms, although it’s never mentioned why. If anyone knows, enlighten me please! It is also said that harvesting herbs is best in the morning just as the dew evaporates to get the highest essential oil content.

There are several ways to conserve herbs and today I’m going to show you how to make mint infused syrup to step up your beverage game.

Simple syrup is nothing more than a solution of sugar in water, a commonly used ingredient in many drinks and thus an indispensable part of your arsenal as a cocktailian. Referred to as one-to-one, it’s made of 1 part sugar and 1 part water. So easy, I just can’t believe people are buying it premade.

To make, combine sugar and water in a pan, set heat to medium and stir occasionally until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil than remove from heat. Add a handful of chopped mint, cover (essential oils are volatile) and allow to cool. Strain through a sieve, bottle up and refrigerate. For a more flavorful syrup, consider using raw brown sugar, it maintains more of a molasses character.

A stronger version, known as rich syrup is the same thing with a larger proportion of sugar. Some bartenders make it with 1.5 parts sugar to 1 part water, while others go up to a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. The choice is yours.

Syrups have a decent shelf life when prepared and stored properly, that is, made with boiling water and stored in a sterile container in the refrigerator. That, needless to say, doesn’t mean interminable — syrup can get moldy, so make quantities you’re likely to use within a reasonable time frame. As a rule of thumb 1:1 hot-process simple syrup should last 2 months, while 2:1 simple syrup should last 6 months. Always check for mold and you’d be ok.

Use it for making all kinds of refreshing summer drinks, and be sure to try drizzling over chocolate ice-cream.

Enjoy!

Fruzsi

Image: fresh green paper mint leaves in greenhouse via freepik