Green Garlic Tostadas, Elderflower Champagne-Hello, June!

Today I went foraging and came home with elderflowers for “champagne” and basswood a.k.a. linden blossoms that Ellen will make into wine. I also collected mulberries, juneberries, and nettles.

I also have a fridge stocked with the current wealth of the farmers’ markets, including some green, or spring, garlic. I used that up on some tostadas I made with Hot Bread Kitchen’s tortillas made with locally grown corn and Cayuga Pure Organics local beans. Some of the nettles got cooked up and added along with lettuce, cheese, and hot sauce. Yum!tostadas-sm

pickled-pep-smI made the hot sauce with the last of last year’s pickled hot peppers. Simplest pickle recipe in the world: seed and chop large hot peppers, or leave small ones whole and prick with the tip of a knife. Loosely pack into a glass jar. Cover with vinegar. Use in any recipe calling for jalapenos or other hot peppers. Since the hot pepper plants I overwintered indoors are already bearing fruit, I have no need of the preserved ones any more. I threw them into the blender along with their vinegar, and voila, hot sauce.

elderblow-smThe elderflower “champagne” recipe is a variation on the one in Ellen’s excellent book Down & Dirty Gardening. The original calls for (non-local, where I live) sugar and lemons. I’ve worked out a variation using local honey and homemade vinegar (see recipe below).

I collected lots of the elderflower umbels, but was careful to leave plenty on the shrubs (no flower=no fruit later in the summer). Then I realized I had a problem: the batches of elderflower champagne I’ve made in the past required plastic bottles because the liquid gets really bubbly and can explode glass bottles.

I no longer drink anything that comes in a plastic bottle. Last year Ellen saved me some bottles from her recycling, but I didn’t want to wait to start this batch (yes, you can make it with dried elderflowers, but I like it better when made with fresh). I considered going through my building’s recycling.

But some of the recipes I looked at predate plastic bottles. There must be a way to do it. I’m going to try using some thick ceramic jugs with wire flip-down tops that I’ve saved over the years (from some very non-local Belgian beers). To hedge my bet, I did mooch one plastic bottle from my neighbor, and I plan to divide the batch.

I know it’s not officially summer yet, but harvesting wild fruit and making elderflower champagne makes me feel like it is.

P.S.–Ms. Ella Fitzgerald says hello:


Elderflower Champagne

Makes approximately 4 quarts

4-6 large elderberry flowerheads

6 pints cold filtered or non-chlorinated water

2 pints boiling filtered or non-chlorinated water

1 lb honey OR 1 1/2 lbs sugar

1/4 cup cider vinegar OR 2 large lemons (juice & rind) plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1. Do not wash the flowers–it’s their natural yeast that will cause fermentation. Just shake off any insects and remove the thick stalks.

2. Place the honey in a very large bowl and cover with 2 pints of boiling water. Stir to liquefy.

3. Add 6 pints cold water. Stir in the vinegar and the flowers.

4. Cover and leave, for 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

5. Strain out the flowers (and lemon rind, if using). Pour into clean plastic bottles with screw tops (or, we hope, thick ceramic or beer bottles with flip tops), leaving at least an inch of headspace.

6. Leave at room temperature for a week, “burping” (opening briefly) the bottles occasionally. After that, move them to the refrigerator, but keep “burping” the bottles for another week. Store for an additional 1-4 weeks before serving cold. The earlier you drink it, the yeastier it will taste. Wait the full six weeks from bottling if you want it at its best. (Note: the honey version takes longer to ferment out than the sugar version. The final drink should be fizzy and sweet, but not cloyingly so).

Upcoming Foraging Classes in Brooklyn on June 12 & June 13!

The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith

9 responses to “Green Garlic Tostadas, Elderflower Champagne-Hello, June!”

  1. acmeplant says:

    Can’t wait to try the local version of the recipe, thanks! And Ella is irresistible.

  2. pinktealeaves says:

    Where did you find the elderflowers? I would love to make this!

  3. japans_vlindertje says:

    Dear Leda,

    I don’t think you know me, but I’m Anouk from Bologna in Italy and I have been following your writings since the wild forager forum some years ago. Now I finally registered to comment your post. I just wanted to let you know that I use glass champaign/sparkling wine bottles for elderberry wine. They are stronger and thicker than normal wine bottles (let’s say they weigh over 600 gr/bottle). They won’t explode, but remember to tap them very well, or taps might come off during fermentation. I never burped the bottles after tapping, and leave them for about a month in the sunlight to ferment (20-30° C) before trasferring them to the cellar (about 15° C).
    Next year I try with honey instead of sugar ! A former teacher of mine uses concentrated apple juice.

    • ledameredith says:

      The champaigne/sparkling bottles are a good idea. I found some flip-top glass bottles that had originally held sparkling water drinks, and they are working fine for the elderflower champagne.

  4. Kat Kelly says:

    I was looking at a recipe for Elderberry Syrup and saw your name in the comments. I was on a wild Foraging Board that you were on and a seed swap many YEARS ago. I couldn’t believe it when I saw your name, a name I knew but had not seen in what seemed a millennia. I don’t know if you even remember me, but I live in East Tennessee, and I was always fascinated that You LIVED and FORAGED in NEW YORK CITY. I think you even sent me some smudge sticks that you had crafted. WOW, You have come a long way. You have published books and have an awesome site. I am so thrilled to see you making your dreams a reality. GOOD for you SiSTA. If you don’t remember me, thats ok. IT has been years, and just consider me a fan.

    • Leda says:

      Wow! Kat! So good to hear from you! Yes, I remember you from the seed swap all those years ago, and I think on Melana Hiatt’s Edible Wild Plants group? Hope all is well with you!

  5. Jeri Jaynes says:

    I just got your book,Preserving Everything, and love it. I recently got the Forager’s Feast, which I also love, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they are both from you! I looked up this post to find out how much elder flowers to use for this elderflower champagne that I am very anxious to try, and am wondering about how much dry flowers to use, since no flowers right now. Thanks for your books and posts!
    Jeri Jaynes

  6. Leda says:

    Hi Jeri,

    Use 7 to 8 large elderflowers (about 5 or 6 inches across – if they’re smaller, use more).

    Glad you’re enjoying the books, and sorry for the belatedness of my reply!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *