I grew up in a place where playing meant spending a whole afternoon out in a neighbourhood of grey apartment blocks, discovering and checking out any little thing that had something exciting in it: a new space where something was being built, finding pretty flowers to make a crown, trying to anticipate when the trees would finally get some fruits ripe enough to be eaten, tasting anything that looked edible, including wild flowers. On weekends, we would sometimes take a longer walk with my mom or grandma, on the hills that separated the grey area of the neighbourhood from the deep green of the forest. Around this time of the year, the narrow road taking to the forest, was full of elderflower shrubs. We took out a small plastic bag (Romanians are used to always carry a plastic bag, just in case) and stuffed it with elderflowers, to make socata. My grandma used to have in her basement these huge glass jars to make sour cherry liqueur (visinata) and they were perfect for this elderflower drink. She would add the flowers, a couple of lemons, sugar and water, and then we had to... wait. Every day I would check if was ready, because I liked it “without bubbles”, so just before it got to ferment. It's always tricky because you have a short time span between getting just the right taste, and getting it to the fermentation point. So I always ended up drinking the last couple of bottles, with bubbles.
It's been nine years since I live in Belgium, and this is the first year I make elderflower syrup. I never realized how much elderflower we have in our area. I guess we needed a pandemic to spend more time biking and discovering the areas closest to our home. So last week, we picked enough flowers to make both the drink of my childhood, socata, and a super delicious syrup that is perfect in so many different combinations, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, deserts and even added in a tea. On a beautiful sunny day, there no better word that comes to my mind than Hugo.
Ingredients (makes 2 liters)
400 g elderflowers (you can leave the short stem, no worries)
2 kg brown sugar
2.5 L water
Wash the flowers very well to eliminate all the dust or small bugs. It’s common to see very tiny bugs on elderflower trees.
Add the water in a big pot and bring it to boil. When it boils, add the elderflowers and boil for another 5 minutes. Turn off the fire, add a cover and let it infuse for 15-20 minutes.
Take a fine strainer and strain the liquid while pushing the flowers down with a wooden spoon so you capture all the flavour in your syrup.
Add the liquid back into the pot, add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved. Add the lemons, cut in slices. Let is boil for 20-30 minutes at small fire.
Prepare a few glass bottles that have been washed and sterilised by leaving them in the oven for a few minutes at low temperature (100°).
Strain the hot syrup into the glass bottles, ideally by using a very fine strainer or coffee filter so you make sure it’s all clean. It should be shiny yellow, like a very liquid honey. Seal the bottles and cover them with a thick kitchen towel or oven mit. It has to stay warm and cool down slowly, in the sealed bottled.
You can then store it in your pantry for a few months, but I doubt it that it will survive for too long. Did I already mention about that Hugo? Excuse me now, I need to go test it and make it pretty for the next photo shooting. Enjoy!