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.