As I like to forage and share recipes, it occurs to me that I have used elder, probably more than most other.
The uses seem almost limitless.
I have posts to share in the mushroom berry and flower foraging sections from this extremely useful tree (which perhaps seems unfairly underated from a gardening point of view)
It occured to me as I began to type out a jew/jelly ear recipe that I will be using the wood over the next few days and that elder also has medicinal properties we have been using.
I was also reminded of my mothers love of fairies as a young girl growing up in the Irish countryside and her love of Yeats’ poetry so I have decided to dedicate a special blog post to the magical elderflower tree where I can share some recipes and creations (there will be limitless uses I am sure)
I am yet to make elderflower champagne, or a liqeuer as in st germaine, or elderberry wine. I am sure I will get around to it next year.
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
from a world more full of weeping than you
To me Elder seems synonymous with a message of transformation, change, and spiritual renewal at both Bealtaine and Samhain. It is not surprising considering its usefulness and abundance at these times that it be seen with reverence by our ancestors.
The first thing I ever made with elder was elderflower cordial, I remember very clearly, using about half as much sugar as any of the recipes stated and adding around half as many flowers again.
Most of the online ones were just too sweet for me, so taste as you go and adjust accordingly. I didnt add citric acid or too many lemons either.
Elderflower cordial recipe
Pick a good bag full of just opened/opening flowers (30+ flower heads) and rinse them checking them over
I added 2 lemons and no more than 2lbs of sugar
Using a large pan I poured boiled then slightly cooled 3 pints of water over the sugar and added the lemon juice and rind
when colled to just warm I added the flowers if you do it when the water is still too hot the colour is not so great -the flowers brown
I left it over night and into the next day (24 hrs if you can) then strained iot through muslin.
Pour into sterilised bottles
You can also use the woody stems to make a bee hotel around this time of this year (bees are only usually around earlier on and this will provide a haven) The stems hollow out so easily that it is perfect for this.
Bee Hotel instructions
For a simple bee hotel use a large (2 l) plastic bottle bottle with the end trimmed off
hollow out your elder stems (extremely easy)
trim to the same depth as the bottle and pack them in tightly
hang or plce in the sunniest spot protected from the rain.
Bees and insects pollinate the elder flowers and they swell becoming ripe plump elder berries later in the year
The little red stem attached to these contain cyanide and are what you need to avoid
It is always adisable to cook them first
(you can add spices for flavouring and use honey instead of sugar)
you will likely need a couple of pounds to last, gather as many as you can
once de stemmed lightly crush with a masher
add around half the volume in water and simmer
dont boil (you will loose some of the potency and vit C)
strain through muslin or a seive squishing as much juice out as you can
measure and add 250g of brown sugar for every 500ml or an equal amount of honey
simmer gently till dissolved
pour into warm sterilised bottles
add to a hot drink (or hot toddy at the first signs of a cold) or a teaspoon a day
It is nice in sauces with game or drizzled over fruit and yogurt too! 😉
I have read that freezing the berries is quite effective at getting them off the stem although I havent tried this myself.
To use add a teaspoon to a hot mug of water or orange juice around 4 times a day at the first signs of a cold.
I also dehydrated berries in the dehydrator for use in teas, they are very good, I made some tea with dried elderberry and dried basil flowers that was wonderful (yes I know it sounds odd)
Lastly I have found jelly/jews ear fungi which grows on dead elder
mmm youre thinking, aren’t you?
Maybe they are faeries ears that they have outgrown, like baby teeth, and left on the stumps for us.
Incidentally the fungus got its name from ‘judas’ ear’ it is said elder is the tree that Judas escariot hung himself from.
I have made another post about these and a recipe you can find in ‘forage’ They go wonderfully in a mushroom soup or sauce for pasta.
You can also make little whistles though I am unsure myself regarding the toxicity of the wood and children using the whistles *regularly* though you can still make them 😉
Next year I aim to make elderflower champagne and a St germain type liqeuer and maybe elderberry wine I intend to have a go at using natural yeasts for fermenting wine.