The Brewing Shed

Preserving summer – how to dry elderflowers

How to dry elderflowers

Summer is underway and the elderflowers are out in force – a sign that activity in the brewing shed is about ratchet up a notch. But this year there’s a hitch. I’m in the process of a house move, the demijohns are packed in boxes, and all fermenting activity is put on hold. So while Rich is merrily making the most of early summer with some experimental brews it will be at least three weeks before I’m plunging an airlock in sterilising solution. And by that time the elderflowers may well be past their best.

But there’s a simple solution… by drying them I get to extend their brewing season throughout the year.

How to dry elderflowers
Converting your small soft, white blooms to crispy dry, brown petals couldn’t be easier. Pick, shake off bugs, give a quick rinse and lay out on a sheet of cardboard. Place this cardboard somewhere warm, dry and shady but with good air circulation and wait until the petals dry out and can be rubbed free from their stems. When the whole batch has thoroughly dried out seal in an airtight container ready for use.

How to use dried elderflowers
Dried elderflowers are a staple of home brew shops and can be used as a substitute for fresh flowers in most recipes. As drying concentrates their aromas you’ll need around two thirds of the weight or volume prescribed in a recipe using fresh ingredients. However, the elderflowers’ natural yeasts will no longer function so you’ll have to add brewing yeast where relevant.

Uses for dried elderflowers include wines, fizzes, teas and cordials. They can also be added as a flavouring to cider, ales and ginger beers to give each drink a floral flavour of summer.

For more inspiration on home made booze (including elderflowers) check out our book Brew it Yourself.

14 Comments

  • We have elderflowers in the garden and know that it is an old fashioned remedy for breathing/chest problems

  • Great article thank you. I’m going out in the sun to pick some elderflower. Just one question, once dried how long do they keep?

    • Thanks Jo.
      I think it depends on how well you dry them and how well they’re stored. I usually make a small jar full which I keep until the following season’s elderflowers are out. Hope that vagueness helps!

  • Thanks for the tip how to dry elder flowers. Today I picked some flowers from my tree and going to use your method to dry, thanks again

    • Health and safety. You have to wash everything these days. To be honest I never bother, but I am exposing myself to the dangers of goldfinch wee.

  • This is awesome! My elderflower tree doesn’t bloom all at once (it has buds, flowers and pollinated/dying heads all at the same time), so this will be a great way to make sure I get enough to make a decent sized brew.
    Question – how long (roughly) do they take to dry out? (I need to let my husband know how long the corner of the living room will be out of action 😉 )

    • We don’t like to give out times for this kind of thing as they can vary hugely depending on numerous factors – how much moisture is in the flowers when you pick them; how hot the corner of your room is; humidity levels; etc. My advice would be to tell your husband it won’t take much more than a day or two, then if it goes on for longer (it probably will if it’s not that warm) tut and mutter and put the blame on us 🙂

      • Fair enough! 🙂
        It looks like it has taken about four days (I think the ones I picked at the weekend are just about done), but I got greedy and decided to pick a whole load more last night, so the living room once more is filled with the glorious smell of drying elderflowers 😀

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