In 2006 I was in Copenhagen visiting family, and a couple days into the visit they set about making their annual batch of elderflower syrup, or in Danish: Hyldeblomstsaft. I’d never heard of the stuff. It was love at first sniff. I had them dictate the recipe to me and I have had it stashed away since then, hoping to come across elderflower locally.
This year my search for some flowers became more of a priority. I experimented through this past winter with back-sweetening of apple wines with elderflower syrup [IKEA sells a version, believe it or not] rather than plain simple syrup. It’s a lovely match. The elderflower gives the nose an ehrenfelser-gewurztraminer-like high-toned aromatic vibe, and the sugar involved balances the often forceful acidity of the apple wine. It transforms an austere wine, suited to standing up to rustic and fatty things like pork shoulder confit, to something more finessy and aperitif-like that would be suitable for light dishes, salads, fish, etc. It’s also just plain tasty.
What follows is not part of the ‘I think’ in the title. The recipes should be sound. I made two versions: the first from my Marcussen cousins, the second my own creation. Theirs, as most do, include acid of some kind, and involve lemons. I get it. It makes a delightful and balanced product that I had no intention on missing out on. But I also wanted to design something that was suited specifically to back-sweetening apple wine using only locally available products. First was the deletion of lemons since they way are not local, and I’m also not really after a lemon-vibe in my wine. Second to get axed was the acid. If I’m back-sweetening to tone down the wine’s acid, doesn’t make much sense to having any in the syrup. Third was replacing the sugar with honey – more locally available, and also brings some aromatics of its own to the party. That left my version with 3 ingredients: water, honey, and elderflower. Pretty simple.
The ‘I think’ bit is that I’m not 100% sure what I’m working with here is elderflower. I did a pile of research online, and the flowers look the same, but the clusters are different in shape and the leaves look different. Wikipedia says there are many regional varieties and sub-species. I’m rolling the dice a bit. I’m badass. Don’t do this at home. My nose says I’m on the right track, and one cluster of flowers from last night’s scouting aromatized our whole house overnight. The season also seems right – my understanding is that they flower in June and these trees were just finishing up [ie, they were flowering end of June]. Plants are also late this year. If somebody out there can confirm yay or nay on my flower ID, do let me know in the comments. One way or the other, I’m going to end up with a flower sryup of some kind. Hardcore, risk-taking teenie-white-flower syrup action.
Lydia Marcussen’s Recipe [dictated off the top of her head, from my 2006 travel notes]
20-25 bunches elderflower, 1.25 L boiling water in a non-reactive pot, 1.25 kg sugar, 25 g tartaric acid [Vinsyre in bottom picture, which in Denmark is apparently used for cleaning the bathroom, or drinking], 2-4 lemons, sliced. Shake flowers free of bugs. Make solution of water, sugar, and acid. Add flowers, cover, and let cool. Stir and chill for 2-3 days, twice a day or so. Strain with cheesecloth. Freeze in small containers. Makes syrup or concentrate, add cold water in winter to make refereshing drinks. Serve with lemon slices. Good with dry Martini vermouth.
My Apple Wine Back-Sweetener Recipe
Equal parts honey and boiling water by weight. About 25 flower bunches per liter of water. That’s it. [Note that some oxidization will occur, not a problem for my end use as brownish elderflower juice isn't that far off color from apple juice/wine.]