Foraging and Canning: An Ode to the Elderflower Ringer, Queen Anne’s Lace, and a Giveaway
I’ve had elderflower on the brain for a few weeks now. I really can’t explain it, but it appears I’m not the only one with elderflower on the brain. I re-read this thread on the Chicagoland Food Lover’s chat site LTH Forum. But I also found out that even Martha Stewart has elderflower front and center.
There was only one thing left to do and that was to go gather elderflowers. Fortunately, in the middle of farmland for some trout stalking in Wisconsin with my husband I saw it everywhere. The flowers that you are supposed to pick, have a light perfume that reminds me of honeysuckle,without being cloying.
There was only one major problem; it was surrounded by a poisonous invasive species known as wild parsnip. This made me leery of foraging because there was no question, wherever the prettiest blossoms of elderflower were, it would be almost impossible to pluck them without touching wild parsnip.
Unlike poison ivy or oak, wild parsnip dares you to look at it. It’s pretty. If you touch it and are subsequently exposed to sunlight, your skin won’t itch at all. You will not get a rash. Instead you get blisters as if your skin had been boiled. I didn’t get any on me while I harvested, but my husband did while he was bushwhacking to get to streams for trout spotting.
Once we got home I shook each and every one of my blossoms to remove any bugs; both bees and ants are a good sign when harvesting,because you know you’ve got sweet blossoms. Into a large bowl of water went my blossoms for cold steeping, before being made into elderflower cordial.
Safely back home in Chicago, I noticed that elderflower grew like weeds all over the city. Even the site where Cabrini-Green stood was littered with elderflower. So I walked over and picked more elderflowers last weekend to make more elderflower cordial.
I made two batches of elderflower cordial, one filled with country harvested blossoms and the other filled with city harvested blossoms. I used slightly different recipes in each batch. I did can them because I wanted to share them with others and use them later.
So I’m going to GIVEAWAY two jars of elderflower cordial. One jar made with country harvested elderflowers and another jar of cordial harvested from city flowers. I’ll use a random number generator to announce the winners next week. All you have to do is leave a comment with the words Giveaway Country or Giveaway City at the start and then explain why foraging isn’t a dying skill or why you think food preservation is experiencing a come back in our fast-paced world.
Country Foraged Elderflower Cordial with Citrus (2-3 days, but it requires very little active time)
Makes about 8 cups
25-30 elderflowers, blossoms removed from stems
2 lemons, unwaxed
1 orange, unwaxed
5 c. sugar*
1 t. of citric acid
Jars with lids and bands
Pick the whitest flowers on a dry warm day. Check the flowers for fragrance. If they don’t smell sweet, don’t bother harvesting them. Don’t be afraid to check the fragrance again before deciding if you are going to use them once you start removing the flowers from their flowering heads.
Check flowers for bugs. I give them a vigorous shake, once they are harvested and again before they are placed in a large bowl. Scrub all citrus fruit, then zest, and juice them. Add the citrus juices, zest, and citric acid to the large bowl of blossoms.** Add 6 ½ c of water. Cover and cold steep in the refrigerator for at least one night, but two nights is better.
Fill a water bath canner*** with enough water so that the top of your jars are covered with at least an inch of water. Add a cup or two of vinegar to the canner. This will prevent mineral deposits from forming on your jars. Bring canner, with your jars inside, to a boil.
Meanwhile, place lids in a separate pot to simmer. Also be certain you have counted out a matching number of clean bands.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place over a large pot. Stir your large bowl of elderflowers and pour into the sieve. Remove sieve and take a lovely deep breath of your spent elderflowers before tossing them into the rubbish or go for one more use and add them to your bathwater after you’ve finished putting up the elderflower cordial.
Now add sugar to the pot and heat over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Processing Elderflower Cordial
Remove one hot jar from the canner and fill with hot elderflower cordial leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace (headspace is canner speak for the area between the lid on the jar and contents inside of the jar). After filling a jar, wipe the rim of the jar, place a lid on top, and then secure with a band (but don’t screw it on tightly). Place the jar gently back into your canner. Once you have finished filling the last jar, place it back into the canner and put the lid on your canner. Once the canner is boiling, process the jars for ten minutes. At the end of the ten minutes remove the lid from the canner and let the jars cool, in the canner, for five minutes. Then remove the jars, one at a time and place on a flat surface with towels separating the jars from the flat surface. Let the jars rest, undisturbed, for twenty-four hours. The next day check the seal. You may have heard most of your jars heal once the canning was complete. The jars often make a high-pitched pinging pop sound when they are sealing. Still you can physically check the seal by placing your finger on the center of the lid and pressing down on it. If the lid does not move then your jars are properly sealed. If the lid has any flex in it, place the cordial in the fridge and use that one first.
City Foraged Elderflower Cordial ((2-3 days, but it requires very little active time)
Makes about 8 cups
25- 30 elderflowers, stems removed from blossoms
8 c. sugar
After you’ve picked pretty and fragrant elderflowers, see instructions above. Place the flowers in a large bowl. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and pour the water over the elderflowers. Cover and leave at room temperature at least overnight, but I prefer two days of steeping.
See previous instructions.
Prepare Elderflower Cordial
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place over a large pot. Stir your large bowl of elderflowers and pour into the sieve. Remove sieve from pot. Add sugar and heat over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Processing Elderflower Cordial
See instructions above.
These cordials can be used as a base for drinks by mixing 2 to 1 with still or sparkling water. You can also add it to ice cream or yogurt, or use it wherever you would use syrup.
* The type of sugar you use will make a difference in the color of this product. I use organic sugar. It doesn’t go through a washing/lightning process like regular white sugar so my end results tend to be a bit darker than those that are made with regular white granulated sugar.
**I found separating the blossoms from the flower head was easiest with a small tined fork used a bit like a rake across the flower head.
*** If you don’t have a Boiling Water Bath Canner or a Pressure Canner you can use a large stock pot, but you must place something on the bottom like a metal trivet or folded tea towel so that the glass jars don’t come into direct contact with your pot.
UPDATE: The pictures above are not Elderflower, but Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as wild carrot. Yes Queen Anne’s Lace is a ringer for Elderflower and can be foraged for tea, jelly, cordials. This includes the flower and the root. There are other ringers, including Sweet Cicely, but it’s flavor is in it’s leaves and reminiscent of anise or licorice, and then there’s the dangerous one… hemlock, but it smells horrible and it’s stems tend to be red or purple (like a bruise) and that in and of itself should be enough to keep one away from it.