Since I was a nipper, I can vaguely recall my mother making this and it was a sure taste that summer was hiding around the corner. She also made it into wine, regrettably I was too young to sample it at the time! It is still a firm favourite and easy to make. The only problem is whether you make little or a lot and in turn with the seasons only available as long as the elderflowers. If you can make enough to last a year- well done! Otherwise you will have to shell out silly prices for the tiny bottles in the supermarkets.
Although the elderflowers have reached their peak there are still some around, so go and get your hands dirty and enjoy the fruits of nature. I was recently informed by Barney, one of the food editors at good food that they are best picked after rain. A quick trip to Battersea park and I had more elderflower heads than I needed, I bet they would taste better from a field deep in the country but urban foragers cant be choosers. The aroma that the dainty little flowers gave off when I stuck my head in the bag was quite something. I must admit now that my cordial did not go as planned due to adding too much sugar and no citric acid. So I had to drink 2 litres in about 4 days! I have amended the recipe so that it should come out absolutely bang on. This recipe is adapted from the River cottage cookbook, it didn’t work for me first time around so after a few adjustments I came up with the one below.
• 40 fresh elderflower heads
• zest of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
• 1kg of golden caster sugar
• 250ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
• citric acid or tartaric acid
Makes 2 wine bottles worth.
Pick off all the flowers, you don’t have to be too anal about this just remove as much green stalk as possible. Put them in a large bowl with the zest from the oranges and lemons. Cover them in about 2 litres of boiling water, cover and leave to soak for 4 hours or overnight.
Strain the liquid through muslin or like I did, an old pair of tights! Mesure the amount of strained liquid and add 250g of sugar to every 500ml of the liquid. Place in a pan with the lemon juice, if you are using it the citric acid (this acts as a preservative and allows the cordial to keep for up to a year). Heat the mixture slowly and stir till the sugar has all dissolved. Simmer for a further 5-10 minutes, once it is cool strain it again and pour into clean, dry bottles (screw top or cork). You now have your ‘spring in a bottle’ to enjoy at your leisure, just mix as you would any other cordial, best drunk over ice after a hot, sticky commute across the city!