Elderflowers were the picture of abundance just a few weeks ago, and it is pretty clear that their final gasp marked the passing of summer's easy start and the arrival of uncompromising, full-on summer herself. It may be an end of the elderflower, but it is the beginning of the elder berry. I must confess, though, that I have yet to use the berries for anything, being too ambivalent in my feelings for their fierce medicinal taste and wicked staining purple dye. I relish the flowers each and every year, though, and am just a little sad to see them brown and dry, because it means that the easy living of early summer, filled with warm promise and golden light, are another year away, again, leaving us with hazy shimmers and white-hot sun.
I thought, rather proudly, that I was being quite ingenious dumping a giant handful of tightly packed elderflower blossoms into a bottle and soaking with vodka, in my quest for a do-it-yourself St-Germain liqueur.
Or perhaps dumping handfuls of flowers into alcohol to concoct a tasty drink based on, and inspired by, local abundance is such a fundamentally good idea that there's no reason to worry about it if other have had, and continue to have, the same good idea.
It won't cool down these fiery temperatures any, but a drink concocted with early summer flowers has got to be refreshing for the soul, making this blazing oven we've suddenly arrived in a little more bearable until early summer comes around again.
Makes about 1 3/4 cups. Feel free to scale up.
You will need a clean pint-sized jar or larger.
1 1/2 cups of elderflower blossoms, forked off.
As much vodka as necessry to cover blossoms and fill your jar (mine was 1 3/4 cups).
Pack the flowers into the jar so they are all in rather compactly, and pour enough vodka into the jar to completely cover the blossoms. Put a lid on and let soak in a cool, dark place for a good 3 or 4 weeks. The vodka will turn sunny yellow during this time.
When you can't wait any longer, strain the vodka. Drink as straight elderflower vodka, if you're hardcore (though it's hard to reconcile being hardcore and drinking flower vodka), or make into a liqueur the low-rent way by adding sugar, shaking to dissolve, and tasting until you like it. Start with 1/4 cup and continue until you reach your sweet threshold or the sugar will no longer dissolve - I got to 1/2 cup and decided it was good.
Serve with tonic water or sparkling water, add a squeeze of lemon or orange, muddled with some mint and lots of ice, or make a light sangria with white wine and light colorful fruits - rainier cherries, peaches & white nectarines would be my top choices.