Foraged Elderflower Liqueur v.2023
I have been making this beautiful elixir for years. Years. But I have never written down my process. I am remedying that this year...for my foraged elderflower liqueur v. 2023. This is an extended project. Some people bottle their liqueur within a few weeks. I prefer to infuse mine for two to three months, then rest for another two to three months. So, typically I start at the end of the summer and serve for the holidays. Cheers!
Every summer we head up to Blue Lake in the South Warner Mountains within the Modoc National Forest. It's quite a haul - over a ten hour drive away from home - but, it's a time filled with family, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and foraging elderflowers. All good stuff.
Usually I forage with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. But this year, Jake wanted to go with me. Done. While the boys played on the water, we headed up the ridge.
If you are unfamiliar, elderflowers are the flowers of the elder tree...before they turn into elderberries. From these enchanting clusters of flowers waft a summery, sweet aroma. Depending on your climate, elder shrubs may bloom at various times between May and September. Here on the Central Coast of California, I usually get them around Mothers' Day; up in the Modoc National Forest, I can pick them well into July and August.
20 large elderflower heads, large stems removed (the stems can be toxic)
1 liter vodka
peel from one organic lemon (no pith, just the yellow)
1 cup water
1 cup organic granulated sugar
Also needed: large lidded jar
A couple of foraging tips: Pick your elderflowers on a sunny day when the blooms are open for the best scent. Give each flower head a good shake to get rid of any bugs, but if a few remain - no big deal - you will strain them out later. Snip the small flower heads from the thick stalks. The stems can be toxic, but the thin stalks attached to the flowers themselves are fine.
Place the flowers into the jar. Add in lemon peel, then pour the vodka in until the lemon and elderflowers are completely submerged.
Place in a cool, dark place for two to three months. After infusing the blossoms for months, strain out the lemon and blossoms.
Make a sugar syrup by gently heating the sugar with the water until it begins to simmer. Swirl to dissolve the sugar. Let cool completely.
Pour half of the simple syrup into the infused vodka. Keep adding the syrup until you are happy with the sweetness level. Pour back into the lidded jar or decant into smaller bottles for holiday gifting.
A Previous Year's Batch of Elderflower Liqueur
Place the jar or bottles back into a cool, dark place to mellow and mature for another two to three months. You can drink it immediately, but I prefer the flavor after it rests.
Use this liqueur the way you would use St. Germain. Think French Gimlet, French 77, St. Germain Spritz, or St. Germain Champagne Cocktail. Stay tuned to see how I serve this during the holidays 2023. Cheers!