It’s that time of year, late spring; hedgerows are full of blossom and new life, elder are covered in frothy creamy heads of flowers. Once upon a time in a previous life when the Tribe were much younger, I used to make bottles and bottles of elderflower cordial. More recently, life has just got in the way and by midsummer I wonder how I missed yet another year of picking and making. But not this year; with everyone at home and being able to watch the changes in nature more closely, we’ve seen the arrival of elder flowers and I have finally made cordial again.
Over the years I have tried a myriad of different recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Mary Berry; this year I have made up a concoction of my own, taking a little bit of knowledge from all the others. So, should you find an elder heavy with scented flower heads, pick a bundle and you can easily make a delicious cordial.
approximately 30 elderflower heads, 1.5kg sugar, 1 large orange sliced, 1 large lemon sliced, 50g citric acid, 1 Campden tablet, approximately 2 litres water
1. Add the sugar and water to a large pan and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2. Shake the flower heads (to get rid of any bugs) and place in a large bowl together with the sliced oranges and lemons.
3. Crush one Campden tablet between two spoons and together with the citric acid, add to the bowl of elderflower and fruit. If you can’t get hold of Campden tablets, don’t worry; your cordial will be absolutely fine but won’t keep as long. I’ve discovered that using Campden tablets means that the cordial will last for months and months. They are used for preserving and sterilising in homemade beer and wine to prevent any bacterial contamination during bottling.
4. Pour the cooled sugar water over the elderflower mix, cover and leave for at least 24 hours. I have been known to forget it and leave it for 3 days; it just makes the mix more highly scented. I don’t believe that it’s an exact science.
5. Strain the mixture through muslin (or a clean teatowel or large napkin) into another large bowl. You should be left with a clear, pale liquid.
6. Transfer to a jug and using a funnel pour into sterilised bottles.
7. Dilute with water to taste and enjoy!