A few times a year, I try to do a complete walk around the perimeter of my farm. It’s nice to take inventory of how the farm has changed with the seasons (or, more generally the case, what needs fixing). A few weeks ago I stumbled upon four rather large black elderberry trees. After harnessing the power of Google to confirm that they were, indeed, elderberries, I was quick to get back outside and harvest any remaining berries that the birds hadn’t yet picked over. (Here’s a description of what black elderberries look like. Please note that red elderberries are toxic to humans, in case you go our foraging. Please be cautious! DO NOT eat or pick green berries, as they are toxic! )
It’s kind of hard to accurately describe what elderberries taste like. I guess the best I can muster is a blend of blueberries, rhubarb, and grape-flavored Dimetapp… but in the best way possible. They have an earthy, fruity flavor with a bit of a medicinal kick. In fact, many people use elderberry syrup as an antidote to colds and sniffles, so I guess there is something to this claim. Elderberries can be used in several ways (my mom loves elderberry pie; elderberry syrup is tasty in DIY sodas). But I thought I would try to make a cordial out of the berries (yes, a cordial, not a liqueur… and I’ll tell you why, just not now. You’ll have to check back for a new post in a few weeks!). I love St. Germain cocktails – they’re so fancy! – so I figured making a cordial to add to this favorite tipple would be a tasty experiment. (PS – It was.)
RECIPE: ELDERBERRY CORDIAL
- Elderberries, removed from stems, washed, and dried
- Clear, neutral spirits (like vodka or Everclear)
- Place elderberries in a jar or bottle with a lid.
- Add enough neutral spirit (I used an inexpensive vodka) to cover the berries (the berries will float, so eyeball it) to a pot and heat to a simmer (do not skip this step! Elderberries contain cyanide, but heating the spirits will release enough cyanide to make it safe for consumption).
- Add the spirits to the elderberries.
- Allow to cool and cover the jar/bottle.
- Allow to steep in a cool, dry, dark place (like your pantry or cupboard) for 2-6 weeks, depending on the amount of cordial made. The cordial is ready to use when the berries lose their color (they will turn brown) and the liquor is a lovely shade of purple (think amethyst).
RECIPE: ‘RESPECT YOUR ELDERS’ CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
- Elderberry cordial
- Elderflower cordial (St. Germain is the most well-known)
- Sparkling Wine (I think a demi-sec bubbly works well here, but use what you like. Cava would also be interesting to use)
- Simple syrup (optional)
- In a champagne glass (coupe or flute, your choice), add one tablespoon elderberry cordial and one tablespoon elderflower cordial.
- Top with sparkling wine (add a little simple syrup if you’d like a sweeter cocktail). Over the teeth and pass the gums… look-out stomach! Here is comes.