Amy Scattergood's Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes with Fried Sage
Hach, Berlin

Elderflower Syrup


This will be a very quick dispatch indeed, frustratingly quick, I'm afraid, because - people, this is big - I have tasted manna and I have no recipe for you and I can only hope you're all very distracted with Christmas plans and travel itineraries and far more important things than checking in with me here so that you won't entirely hate me once I tell you about this elixir and how we all not only have to wait for summer to make it ourselves, but source ourselves an elderberry bush, which as you might know is not so easy at all, no sirree, Bob.

I was at Joan's the other night, for the Springerle bake-off (more on that soon, I promise), when she innocently asked me if I wanted a cool drink. With her Holundersyrup, to be exact. Holunder is the German word for elderberry (and, more importantly, elderflower) and seeing as my mother, a very accomplished preserver, to be fair, was the source of some pretty gnarly elderberry preserves a few years ago, I wrinkled my nose (politely!) and said I'd try a small sip. You know, to be gracious. Well. Well. Yes. Let me try to explain what happened next.

I took a sip of cool tap water that Joan had mixed with a spoonful of the golden syrup. And suddenly, like a gentle thunderclap or a small fissure in the space-time continuum, I was transported. Summer, Berlin summer, was in my mouth! How odd. I stood in the kitchen, the wintry scent of cinnamon hanging lightly in the air, candles aglow and darkness swirling about outside - all hallmarks of Christmas in Berlin - and yet there I was, with summer in my mouth. Birds chirping, warm breezes blowing, blooming branches dropping petals on the sidewalk. It was all quite marvelous. After all, I haven't been to Berlin in the summer since 2001 and to say I've missed it would be the understatement of the decade.

So, now to explain to those souls out there who don't know the beauty that is summer in Berlin (seriously, dear readers, gas prices are plummeting, no one's traveling - book yourselves a flight already): elderflower syrup is fruity and sweet and cooling and refreshing, incredibly so, yet not cloying like rose water, even though it is floral. It's cool floral, not florid floral. Know what I mean? Am I making any sense? Should I shut up already? Just take it from me: elderfloral syrup is an absolute dream.

I don't have an exact recipe right now, though apparently Joan found one on the internet that she improvised with. Next summer, I promise, I'll make this in Italy, where we have lots of elderberry bushes growing wild, and I'll give you exact proportions. But, roughly speaking, here's what you do: get yourselves a whole mess of elderflower blossoms, some sugar, lemons, citric acid and a bit of water. Put it all in a crock (earthenware, I guess) and cover it and let it macerate in the dark for four days. Strain it and voila! Wait, that doesn't sound right. Maybe you let the elderflower blossoms and the citric acid and the lemon juice macerate for a few days and then you make a simple syrup with the sugar and water and then you mix it together with the strained elderflower liquid, and then voila! Hmm. I don't know.

But what I do know is that, man, I can't wait to have more of that stuff. And that I'm so happy to be here right now that I'd like time to stop. That's all.