Elderflower, Bubbly & Fried
June 14th, 2006

A lot of my friends are seriously into running, as a matter of fact some go for the long distance/marathon, something I’d never even dare to consider. One cause for doing so -a notion they all share- is that it clears your head and allows new ideas to enter and inspire the mind. That’s the theory. It actually doesn’t happen to me, ever. Mostly, my mind revolves around the same two questions, how far I’ve already gotten and how long will it take me to get back home. But I do enjoy the beauty of the southern part of the Englischer Garten, all with the invaluable support of my GET IT OVER WITH-play list and my iPod. But no exciting ideas have popped in so far. Until last week.

Elderflower

We approached a shadowy corner near the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace monument) that was covered over and over with wood garlic. It clearly had exceeded its best before date already, which however didn’t keep it from spreading its distinctive, quite obnoxious smell. Which on a brighter note triggered good thoughts about natures gifts and the turning of seasons. Before I start to sound cheesy, the next thing that crossed my mind were elderflowers, typically blooming in late Spring early Summer (around May/June). With the horrible Spring weather we have had, it couldn’t be too late to rush out for a quick harvest, could it? Although biology had always been one of my favorite subjects (way) back in school, I was never really good in identifying trees or bushes from a distance. Close by and bringing my nose into play now that’s a different story and thinking of elderflower, its dead give away is its deliciously heady perfume. When I passed by bushes with white blossoms I had a vague guess what it might be. The unique scent gave it away – hooray, it’s elderflower time!

Elderflower

As if the rich, fragrant scent made me high, I picked up speed, because I couldn’t wait to get back home and grab a basket before somebody else might discover my sensational find. Did I say sensational? On our way back it dawned on me that elderflowers are simply EVERYWHERE! Once on my radar, I not only realized bushes and trees are growing wild all over the park and gardens, but even in our own backyard, providing endless possibilities for a bountiful harvest. Shame on me for being so ignorant and not seeing the obvious…

Elderflower

Since I haven’t worked with elderflowers before, I consulted smart books, the web and finally packed up. Equipped with a knife and a basket, taking to heart what I just had read: Don’t pick elderflowers near a road (obviously), carefully look for plant lice or similar creatures before picking them and only harvest the “ripe” blossoms (the blooming ones, not yet withered) including the stalks (makes it easier to handle). Carry them home gently, so as not to lose the tasty pollen.

The plethora of uses is overwhelming: wine, cordials and sorbets to mention a few, it’s fragrant flavor can also be used to enhance the flavor of jams, pickles, chutneys and vinegars. At the same time elderflower (or common elder) is an effective remedy for various ailments and this natural approach to health is becoming more and more popular.

Fried Elderflower (Hollerküchln)

It’s becoming a common theme, but what can I do, the source of my recipe plans is again deeply rooted in my family. Something that has been lingering around the edges of my brain for quite a while are Hollerküchln, a delicious, traditional Bavarian recipe from my grandma’s inexhaustible repertoire – one of the many I haven’t tried myself yet.

Hollerküchln

Furnished with her original recipe, and with Oliver’s bewildered and scrutinizing look in mind, I prepared a batter very similar to what is being used for Apfelküchln (fried apple rings). My own spin on the recipe is using Karamalz (my personal weakness, a sweet alcohol-free dark malt beer) instead of regular dark beer.

The Hollerküchln turned out incredibly yummy, “yummy enough” that I had troubles keeping up with Oliver’s gusto. Golden brown and crunchy they are best eaten right out of the pan, generously dusted with cinnamon sugar. Or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Your call. Will someone notice that the elderflower tree in our backyard is seriously thinned out now…?

Start with preparing the elderflowers: Gently dip the flower heads in a bowl of cold water to remove any loosely-attached dirt and/or anything with feet. Allow to dry on paper towels for a few minutes, otherwise the batter won’t stick well to the blossoms.

Note: Some recipes advise to not wash them (saves more of the delicate pollen), but even after chilling the blossoms in the fridge for 15 minutes (the cold supposedly helps to get little insects to abandon their hideaway) I still spotted the one or the other tiny critter – so I washed them, very carefully though.

The batter: Beat the egg whites until stiff, set aside. In a separate bowl, blend together the egg yolks, flour, dark beer and a pinch of salt. Whisk until well combined, then carefully fold in the egg whites.

Dip the flowers up-side down in the batter and immediately pan fry in clarified butter over medium to high heat. For more crunchiness, just lightly dip the blossoms. A few might even end up fried without any batter at all. For a softer, chewier result dip them more generously.

When lightly browned on the bottom, remove from the pan and snip off the thick stalks. Now flip them and fry the other side until golden, drip off excessive fat on a paper towel and serve hot with cinnamon sugar. If you can’t be bothered to trim the stalks, just fry a little longer on the first side. It actually can be fun to eat them this way, simply nibble the crunchy blossoms from the stalks (which should not be consumed).

Resume: There is probably no such a thing as healthy fried food and even the elderflowers’ qualities won’t fully make up for it, but having it once in a while won’t hurt either, RIGHT? These Hollerküchln have to be one of the best ways to indulge yourself in fried food with the added benefit of having a fabulous elder aroma throughout the apartment …This will be a regular snack over the next weeks, it’s a must try!

Hollerküchln

Elderflower Syrup

Sodas based on elderflowers have been popular all along. Whether diluted with pure water, bubbling with soda water or sparkling mineral water, elderflower infused syrup makes deliciously refreshing drinks. It adds a nice twist to Prosecco and Champagne, perfect for an elaborate aperitif. I can even imagine it with the one or other dessert, did someone say panna cottasorbet…?

Elderflower Cordial

Back in the days when I was a kid experimenting with all kinds of mixtures and probably semi toxic concoctions, I remember my mum telling me to not use our regular water bottles as containers, simply to prevent someone from mistakenly drinking from it. Hm, ‘must have forgotten her word of advice for a moment, but was suddenly reminded of it, when I heard Oliver making funny noises in the kitchen. Guess I shouldn’t have used one of our regular water bottles for the leftover syrup *snicker*. What really cracked me up though was the sight of him leaning over the kitchen sink slurping water in record time trying to dilute the syrup in his tummy…

Pink and bubbly

Clean the elderflowers (see recipe above), then remove the little blossoms from their stems.

In a very large pot bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir well until the sugar has completely dissolved, then remove from heat.

Mix citric acid with a few tablespoons of water in a separate pot over medium heat until dissolved and add it to the syrup, stir well. Let the mixture cool down a bit, then add the elderflower blossoms.

Cover and leave to infuse for a minimum of 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain through a muslin lined sieve, then fill in clean bottles.

Elderflower Cordial Bottles

The recipe worked like a charm and the cordial is so much better than anything I have bought so far, mixed with sparkling mineral water it could probably even compete with the new hip, organic lemonade Bionade, but at much lower costs! The only negative side effect: The kitchen was turned into an indescribable sticky mess! Oh well.

With this being my first attempt at making homemade cordial, I have not yet gained much experience with the various methods of preserving. The German Chefkoch forums have already been a good source of information in the past and have also proved to be a good starting point for this topic. Apparently, the added citric acid already serves as a preservative, hence the syrup should stay good way past summer, but I doubt that: We already used up almost one liter over the last week… And today I received the first replenishment order from friends.

EDIT: More on edible flowers and recipes can be found in Barbara’s “The Spice is Right III – The Perfumed Garden“.

Elderflower Cordial Bottles

Hollerküchln

Recipe source: My grandma

Prep time: 15 min., plus frying

.

Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):

200 g flour

2 eggs, divided

a pinch of salt

250 ml dark beer, Karamalz or milk

16-20 elderflower blossom heads

clarified butter

for decoration: cinnamon sugar

.

Elderflower Cordial

Recipe source: Chefkoch-Forum (G)

Prep time: 30 minutes, infusing: 24 hours

.

Ingredients (yields almost 4 liters):

2 liters water, plus 5-6 tbsp extra

3 kg fine (white) caster sugar

100 g citric acid ( e.g. from the pharmacy)

15 to 20 heads of elderflower blossoms

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