We are, most of us in this country, I assume, doing some some sort of celebration today. Whether it is an excuse to drink beer early in the day or an occasion of deeper meaning, July 4 is upon us. I’ve got to admit that I like this one quite a bit- I always have. While the present challenges me, our nation’s history entrances me, and the patriotism around the fourth is one that I can certainly get behind.
That, and the picnics.
So in the spirit of independence (fancy liquor made at home!), and of picnics, let’s talk about elderflower vodka, the base of a most luxurious and resourceful afternoon party drink.
I have these elderberry bushes in my yard. A few years ago, my friend Jen dropped off two little twigs and told me to plant them, and of course I said yes. Now I have huge bushes and right now, they are covered with the most exquisite snowy flowers.
We were away last week, and in the days before our departure these flowers were causing me a bit of anxiety, because I’m irrational enough to have anxiety about flowers. I was so excited to do something with all these beautiful flowers, and I was afraid that they were going to come to their perfect, just-open moment when I was away! I have a pretty ridiculous habit of absolutely needing to do a project in the very second that we are loading up the car for a trip. I don’t know why it always happens this way, but it does. At least this time it wasn’t wedding cake. But as I was worried that the flowers would be past their prime before I returned, there I was as my husband was buckling the girls into the stuffed car, snipping elderflowers off the bush. Luckily, it is so easy to make elderflower vodka, I slid into the car in no time, and with a loving roll of his eyes, we were off.
Elderberries are native in New England, and a forest walk will often bring you to a flower laden bush. Pick the flowers before noon when they are most fragrant, and ideally when they are just open. By late July or early August, it will be all fancy drinks for you. So it won’t be ready today, but you might just have to have another picnic later in the summer. Any excuse for a picnic, I say.
Pick as many elderflower heads as you can find- between 15 and 25 medium to large flower heads. Remember that if you want elderberries later in the summer, you must leave some flowers, but the plant will most likely push out more flowers after you have picked them. Pick off the larger stems from the flowers, and make sure that there are no bugs in the blossoms. Pack the flowers into a large mason jar, and cover with decent vodka. Cover with lid, and place in a cool, dark spot for 4-6 weeks. The vodka will turn a buttery yellow color.
Set out a clean large mason jar, and top with a strainer lined in cheese cloth. Pour the contents of the jar into the new mason jar, straining out the flowers. Add 1/4 cup sugar and shake to dissolve. Taste, and add more sugar if you would like it to be sweeter.
Serve with bubbly water, or in any sort of creative combination, or of course, if you are in my backyard…
straight, with maybe an ice cube or two.
Oh, the waiting. Soon enough friends, soon enough.