Seasonal harvests:

A foragers' guide to making Elderflower presse

Table of Contents

THE DELIGHTS OF ELDERFLOWER PRESSE

Ah, the humble elderflower – a true gem of wild flora! For those of us who revel in the art of foraging, the arrival of elderflower season is as exciting as the first warm breeze of spring. Each cluster of blooms, when harvested at their peak, is a treasure trove of flavor, lending itself beautifully to syrups, desserts, and beverages like the beloved elderflower presse.

Elderflowers, with their creamy-white blossoms, exude a warm, sweet fragrance that heralds the onset of summer. These delicate flowers are not just a symbol of the season’s abundance but are deeply embedded in various cultures for their culinary and medicinal qualities. Found primarily in Europe and North America, elderflowers are the edible parts of the elderberry plant (Sambucus nigra), which has been both revered and mythologized throughout history. 

a metal bowl full of frothy elderflower blossoms

IDENTIFYING ELDERFLOWER

The first step in our botanical adventure is learning to identify the elderflower (Sambucus nigra). This plant typically flourishes in the wild margins of forests, hedgerows, and along country paths. Elderflowers dazzle with their cream-colored, starry blossoms that cluster together like miniature bouquets, offering a sweet, floral scent that’s hard to miss from late May to early July.

Look for These Clues:
Leaves: Elderflower leaves are compound, typically featuring 5-7 leaflets with serrated edges.
Flowers: The tiny, cream-white flowers are held in large, flat-topped clusters.
Location: Elderflower bushes love sunny spots and can often be found near water bodies, in light woodlands, or along hedgerows.

HARVESTING ELDERFLOWER

Harvesting elderflower is a delightful pastime that connects us to the rhythms of nature, but it’s important to do it thoughtfully. The best time to gather these flowers is on a dry, sunny day when the blooms are fully opened, as this is when they are most fragrant and potent. Aim to pick them in the late morning after the dew has evaporated but before the midday sun diminishes their delicate aroma.

When harvesting, gently cut the flower heads from the plant, leaving behind ample blossoms to transform into berries for wildlife and future growth. It’s essential to select flower heads that are creamy-white, as this indicates freshness; avoid brownish ones as they’re past their prime. Remember, part of the beauty of foraging is sustainability, so harvest responsibly, taking only what you’ll use and ensuring that the plants remain healthy and abundant for the years to come. 

SYMBOLISM & FOLKLORE

Elderflowers hold a rich tapestry of folklore and historical uses that stretch back centuries. In some European traditions, the elder tree was considered magical, capable of warding off evil spirits. It was often planted near homes for protection. Conversely, in other legends, it was believed that the elder tree was the dwelling place of witches, and therefore, one must always ask for permission before taking its wood or flowers. In folk medicine, elderflowers have been used to treat everything from colds and flu to inflammation and diabetes. The flowers were considered a “cure-all,” making them a staple in many traditional remedies. This historical mystique, combined with their culinary versatility, makes elderflowers an intriguing ingredient to explore further, especially in creating drinks like elderflower presse that capture their subtle yet captivating flavor profile.

a sprig of elderflower being held

CREATING YOUR OWN ELDERFLOWER PRESSE

Now, for the magical part – turning your foraged treasures into a refreshing elderflower presse! Creating elderflower presse from scratch is an exercise in patience and delight. Each sip packs a punch of floral sweetness, embodying the wild spirit of foraging. Whether you’re enjoying a lazy afternoon in your garden, dressing up a weekend brunch, or looking for a non-alcoholic sipper for your next soiree, elderflower presse fits the bill perfectly.

You’ll Need:
20-25 heads fresh elderflower heads (ensure they are free from pesticides and pollutants)

1 Lemon zest & juice
1 litre cold water
Sugar to taste
Citric acid (optional, for preservation)

A Simple Recipe:
1. Rinse the Flowers: Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any bugs or dirt.

2. Infusion: In a large bowl, combine the elderflower heads with thinly sliced lemons, sugar, and boiling water. Some folks add citric acid as a preservative.

3. Let It Sit: Cover the mixture and let it infuse for 24 to 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Strain and Bottle: Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth or fine sieve. Pour the filtered presse into sterilized bottles.

5. Enjoy Chilled: Serve your homemade elderflower presse chilled for a taste of summer regardless of the season.

Top serving tip – check out our range of glassware for the most sustainable foraged drink 

OTHER USES FOR ELDERFLOWER

The charm of elderflower doesn’t stop at presse. This fragrant blossom can enhance a variety of culinary creations. Here are three more delightful ways to incorporate the magic of elderflower into your kitchen adventures:

Elderflower cordial

A sweeter cousin to the elderflower presse, the cordial is a concentrate that’s versatile in its use. It’s simpler than it sounds: you primarily need elderflowers, sugar, water, and the juice (and zest) of lemons. Some like to add a touch of citric acid to boost preservation and add a tangy kick. Once you’ve made your cordial, it serves as a delightful base for homemade sodas (just add sparkling water), a sweet addition to cocktails, or a flavorful drizzle over fresh fruit salads. The intense elderflower aroma encapsulated in the cordial can transform simple recipes into something extraordinary.

Elderflower-infused deserts

Elderflower has a natural affinity for sweet treats. Imagine the gentle floral notes of elderflower elevating your favorite desserts! A dash of elderflower cordial can be mixed into cake batter, custard bases, or whipped cream, offering a subtle, summery twist. For a creative and visually stunning use, consider making elderflower jelly. Set atop a tart or mixed berries, it’s a dessert that whispers elegance. Remember, when it comes to incorporating elderflower into desserts, a little goes a long way. You’re aiming for a hint of floral, not an overwhelming perfume.

elderflower ice-cream

Elderflower ice creams & sorbets

For those balmy summer days when only ice cream will do, elderflower can be your secret ingredient. Blend elderflower cordial into your ice cream base before churning. For a dairy-free option, elderflower makes a refreshing sorbet. Simply mix elderflower cordial with water, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little sugar (adjust to taste), then freeze using your preferred method. The result? A refreshingly light dessert that dances on the palate, perfect for closing a summer evening dinner or as an afternoon treat to beat the heat.

Fancy something a little more ‘adult’? We also love this recipe from River Cottage for making sparkling elderflower wine.

EMBRACE THE FORAGER'S SPIRIT

Foraging for elderflower and crafting your bespoke elderflower presse is more than a culinary project; it’s a journey into the heart of nature. It’s about slowing down, tuning in to the rhythms of the earth, and celebrating the simple joys that nature offers. So the next time you pass by an elderflower bush, take a moment to admire its beauty. Better yet, try your hand at foraging and discover the unparalleled joy of transforming elderflower blossoms into a sparkling presse that’s all your own.

A NOTE ON FORAGING RESPONSIBLY

Venturing into the world of foraging is a thrilling experience, but it comes with its own set of rules:

Respect Nature
Only pick flowers from areas abundant with elderflower to ensure sustainability. Remember, these flowers will turn into berries, which are vital for local wildlife.

Positive Identification
Confidently identifying elderflower is crucial. Avoid confusing it with other plants like cow parsley. When in doubt, consult a reliable foraging guide or local expert.

The Basics of Foraging
Always ask for permission if you’re foraging on private land.
Take only what you need. Elderflowers are best enjoyed when fresh, so plan accordingly.

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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