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Campsite Forage: Elderflower Cordial, Champagne & Fritters

Campsite forage, elderflower, cool camping activities

The Elder is one of our favourite wild shrubs as it has loads of flavoursome flowers and berries to give us free wild food, cordial and booze by the bucket load. It also flowers when summer has arrived, signalling the start of many hot and happy camping days ahead, and is the shrub that first got us interested in foraging and brewing.

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The flower has a unique and pungent perfume which flavours everything you make, but it also develops fruit in the autumn which can be made into sauces, jams and jellies. It’s a very versatile plant, considered by many to be a weed, and once you start using it you begin to spot it everywhere you go.

If bought from the shops Elderflower Cordial is very expensive, however with a small investment in a lot of sugar it can be made, bottled and used throughout the year. It can also be made into a very refreshing wild flower Champagne (sparkling wine), or if you are feeling a bit fruity yourself, you can pour a bit of cordial with a splash of vodka over a handful of ice. Yum!

So here’s our favourite tried and tested recipes for you to try, and as the season has already started you’d better get moving if you want to get the best flowers. Just remember to pick them on a warm sunny day to get the best flavour, away from pollutants and with the permission of the land owner.

Campsite forage, elderflower, cool camping activitiesCampsite forage, elderflower, cool camping activitiesCampsite forage, elderflower, cool camping activities

Elderflower Cordial

  • 20 unwashed de-bugged flower heads
  • 1 oz citric acid (from any chemist) or 2 tbs cider vinegar
  • 2 lemons – juice and rind
  • 1 Lb brown sugar
  • 1 Lb white sugar
  • 1 Litre boiling water

Pour boiling water over all the ingredients, leave for a few days to infuse, strain and pour into sterilised bottle. It’s as simple as that!

Campsite forage, elderflower, cool camping activities

The flowers are easy to spot from a distance

Elderflower Champagne

  • 20 unwashed de-bugged flower heads
  • 2 sliced lemons
  • 4.5 Litres boiled but warm water
  • 1.5 Lbs caster sugar
  • 0.5 oz citric acid (from any chemist) or 2 tbs cider vinegar

The only tricky bit about this recipe is finding the right bottles to store it in. We’re not joking when we say the pressure from the gas released from the yeast can cause explosions that can cover the entire room in Elderflower Champagne. It has happened to us and it does make a very sticky mess! Your best bet is to use plastic screw top bottles which expand slightly, and if you leave the lid slightly loose for the first 1 or 2 weeks the excess gas can escape safely. The alternative is champagne bottles, corks and wire, but this is much more expensive than recycling old plastic ones. Ordinary wine bottles may explode or the corks pop out with quite literally a fountain of highly pressurised Champagne to follow.

Put the flower heads, lemon and sugar in a fermentation bucket and pour on the water. Leave to soak for 24 – 36 hours and strain through a cloth or fine sieve. Add the citric acid and stir until dissolved. Make sure the fermentation process has started with the natural yeasts by checking for gas bubbles. If it hasn’t you will need to add some champagne yeast. Bottle and store for 3 weeks before drinking chilled. It doesn’t keep much longer than 3 months, but take our word for it, there’s no way it will last that long!

Elderflower Fritters

To try something a bit different you can make Elderflower fritters which make a perfect summer desert. Just make a simple pancake batter, dip the unwashed de-bugged flower head in it and deep fry until golden brown. Either serve with icing sugar and mint or Maple Syrup to make a gorgeous campsite treat.

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