Growing up as Austrian means growing up with elderflower syrup. Either store-bought or homemade, almost every household has a bottle of elderflower syrup ready to use.
Mostly, people are using it to make a non-alcoholic beverage, adding some tap water or seltzer to make it a low-sugar soda.
When picking elderflower blossoms, ake sure to use blossoms that are fully opened and not browning.
Several elderflower heads (umbels).
I was surprised that this is not a thing in the US. Instead of carrying home hundreds of soda cans, we would buy 1 quart of fruit syrup (elderflower is my favorite) and simply add tap water or sparkling water to the syrup to thin it. The syrup would last for weeks or even months and is way healthier than the overly sweet sodas, which I will never get used to.
Browsing through the supermarket isles here in Boston made me realize that fruit syrups, especially elderflower cordial, may be a European thing. So, I was constantly on the lookout for an elderflower bush to make my own syrup. They are blooming in May and June (at least here in the Boston area).
Finally, I found one! Now my dreams of elderflower champagne, Hugo cocktails, and a simple low-sugar elderflower lemonade are reality. Oh, how did I miss these aromatic blossoms that taste like summer in a glass.
Making elderflower syrup at home is easy and you will get the best result. Make sure to use blossoms that are fully opened and not browning. They will make the best taste. The citric acid adds some zing and acts as a preservative to make the syrup keep longer. If you are making a small batch like in the recipe below and can’t get citric acid (see note for sources), you can omit it and simply add some lemon juice instead. Make sure to store the syrup in the fridge if it doesn’t contain any citric acid, otherwise a cool place is fine.
To serve, mix the elderflower syrup with tap water or sparkling water (1 part syrup + 7-8 parts water), and add some ice cubes or lemon slices if you like. My favorite drink is white wine mixed with some elderflower syrup and sparkling water, decorated with a lemon slice. It’s called “Kaiserspritzer” in Austria.
You can also use this syrup to drizzle over pancakes or waffles, a dutch baby, a berry pavlova or to dip pieces of Kaiserschmarrn in. It’s also great so sweeten a smoothie, a frozen yogurt, or to add it to homemade ice cream.
1/2 to 1 organic lemon, cut into slices (optional)
Remove any insects or debris from the elderflower blossoms. Do not wash them, as they will lose a lot of flavor.
Combine sugar, water, and citric acid in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved (no need to boil). Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Trim the stems away from the elderflower blossoms and discard. Try to remove as much of the stems as you can.
Add the blossoms and the lemon slices (if using) to a large glass jar or a big bowl.
Pour the cool syrup into the jar/bowl with the elderflower blossoms. Make sure that the blossoms are immersed in the syrup. A small plate can help press them down. Cover the jar/bowl with a lid or a tea towel and let it steep at cool temperature (a cool room or the fridge) for 48 hours, stirring the syrup once daily.
Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a cheesecloth or a paper towel into a clean jar/bottle. Store the syrup in a cool place for up to one year. Once opened, store the bottle in the fridge.
You can find food-grade citric acid at most supermarkets in the canning section. It is often located near the pectin and other canning supply. Sometimes it is available under the name of "sour salt" in the spice aisle. I got mine at a coop market from the bulk bins where they keep the spices.
The amount I am using in this recipe is rather high compared to other recipes but it is exactly how I like my syrup. I prefer elderflower syrup with a little zing rather than bland and flat but without covering the elderflower taste. You can reduce the amount of citric acid a little, if you like.