I have wanted to make Elderflower cordial for the longest time. I absolutely love it and due to the high price of the commercially produced stuff it's something of an infrequent treat when I've got pennies to spare. Come to think of it, I've absolutely no idea why it's taken me so long to get round to making it? One of life's mysteries, but most likely connected to my incredible Lazy Gene and uber-strong Procrastination Tendencies. I very often have Big Thoughts about doing all sorts of productive, creative things, but the following through with action just doesn't always happen. Oh, and the other thing is that I am quite allergic to elderflowers, or rather the vast amount of dusty pollen they contain. Cath Kidston tissues at the ready for this venture.
This year I noticed a real abundance of elderberry trees/bushes in my neighbourhood throughout June, they seemed to be everywhere I looked and were smothered in flowers. A few weeks ago I had been chatting to a friend about wanting to make elderflower cordial, and she gave me a brief run down of the recipe as she remembered it. Twenty Five flower heads she said. Plus lots of sugar and some lemons. Sounded simple enough, and I figured that twenty five flowers would be fairly easy to harvest.
Not sure what prompted me finally to go forth and Make It Happen, maybe I wanted to do something so very Summery to combat the un-summery weather. Maybe I was just plain bored one damp, overcast Sunday morning. Bored and thirsty perhaps?
Despite the ridiculously unseasonal weather, I really enjoyed my early morning picking trip to the park. I find elderflowers incredibly pretty, they really are beautiful when you study them in close-up.
As anticipated, I had soon gathered twenty five pollen-filled flower heads into my basket. It didn't take long at all and I wished that it had lasted longer. It was definitely the bestest bit of the whole Cordial-making experience (although consuming the finished product is pretty darn good). I felt so pleased with my efforts as I tramped back up the soggy hill with my hedgerow booty swinging in my basket. How wholesome and productive to venture out and gather natures harvest to do fantabulous homemade things with!
Ahhh, long summer grasses, swaying gently in the breeze......you would never believe from this photo how cold it actually was on that first day of July). Freeeeeeeeezing it was.
Just had to share these roses with you, I pass them on my short walks to and from the park and have fallen in love with them over and over again this summer. I so wish that they were mine! Need to purchase and plant roses at number 24. It's a Must-do. Is rose-planting an Autumn pursuit? Any rose-lovers/growers out there, please do pass me some rosy-growing info!
Right then, pull my thoughts away from gorgeous, delightful, fragrant, smoochy pink roses and back to the sneezy, creamy white elderflowers. I loved the look of them inside my strawberry oilcloth lined basket. So pretty.
If you read any recipe for making elderflower cordial, it will always tell you to wash the flowers in water first to get rid of any critters. I didn't actually do this (plain forgot), but I did give the flowers a good shake and an inspection as I pulled them one by one out of the basket. I was completely mesmerized by this spider that crawled out, it is the exact colour of the alchemilla that's frothing away in my front garden. It's the first time I have ever encountered a lime green spider, it was a lovely little critter indeed.
I have to tell you that there are a gazillion-bobillion recipes in the world for elderflower cordial and they seem to vary wildly. Although the main ingredients (flowers, sugar, water, citrus fruit) are pretty much the same in each recipe, the quantities and proportions were staggeringly different. I flicked through about a dozen variations on the internet and perused a few in my books, eventually settling on this one by Sarah Raven.
Sarah's recipe has rather more citrus in than other recipes (2 lemons, 2 oranges and 2 limes, although I left out the limes cos of not having any in at the time). I love citrus flavours though, and I also loved her no-nonsense method.
One other ingredient she also uses (that I miraculously did have in) was citric acid. From what I know of this ingredient, it's a natural product that's mainly used in wine making to act as a preservative. It might possibly also give a little extra fizz-kick to cordials, although that's just a guess. It's perfectly possible to make elderflower cordial without it, but I think it does make it taste better. You can buy it easily online, even Amazon sells it (well Amazon does sell just about anything these days).
So this is Sarah's easy-peasy method :: water and sugar in pan, bring to boil. Add in flowers, bring back to boil. Remove from heat, throw in sliced fruit, stir and leave for a few days. Easy or what?
I left my concoction to infuse for 3 days for maximum flavour to develop. Then I strained it through a muslin bag into a big jug and poured it into two empty 1 litre soda bottles.
The Little People were suitably impressed with my efforts and couldn't wait to sample it. The cordial is quite strong and needs to be diluted with water :: we made it first with normal tap water, then later with some bubbly soda water.
It really is delicious. Delicate, refreshing and oh-so-summery. I just wish I'd made more of it now, but there's always next year.