Since moving from the outskirts of a city to a rural market town seven years ago, one of the many things I really appreciate is how I feel so much more aware of the seasons. I think there are several reasons for this, the first one being the beautiful view from my Attic window. Every single day I look out across the rooftops to the fields and hills beyond and observe the ever changing colours as the weather and seasons do their thing.
Where I used to live there were no hills. None-what-so-ever. The landscape was as flat as a pancake and as such it was hard impossible to really get a feel for what was going on around you. The compensation for this was Big Skies, but oh I do really love to be surrounded by hills and I don't miss that flattened out landscape one little bit. I also used to go almost everywhere by car when I lived on the outskirts of the city, as everything I needed to get to on a daily basis was so much further away. Living here I walk absolutely everywhere, which means I am very much more aware of the weather conditions/seasons as I am not riding around in a metal box.
Blogging my daily life is also a terrific help in reminding me of my connection to the land and the seasons. My blog gives me a precious little window to gaze through and gain access to my faded memory banks, and I am often surprised and delighted by the rhythmic and repetitive nature of my lifestyle. It tickles me that year after year we do the exact same things on more or less the exact days of each month!
For the past three years, June has been the month of the Elderflowers. There are a lot of trees in my neighbourhood, they sprout like giant overgrown weeds in the most unlikely of places - along roadsides and verges, in hedgerows, along paths and even out of walls. In early June as I go about my business to and fro, I keep an eye on the flowers, waiting patiently for the tight little green bobbles to open up and produce a froth of creamy white, teeny tiny flowers. Last year we made our first pickings right in the middle of the month, with a second batch a week later.
This year, the flowers have been late as we had a very long, cold Spring and Summer has been slow to get going. But during the last week in June I suddenly noticed creamy white flowers everywhere and knew it was finally cordial making time.
I went with the Little People on Monday evening after dinner to gather in the floral booty. It had been a very hot sunny day and the evening remained balmy and completely summery, it was a gorgeous time to be out and about.
This year I found a new place to go not far from home where there was an abundance of trees laden with flowers. So I was able to snip the stems freely, taking only a handful from each place as we strolled along. There was also the bonus of finding a great swathe of ox eye daisies growing wild along the road side, so I thought it would be ok to gather a few. We were walking along a quiet access road along the back of the railway track, not very picturesque but the flower bounty more than made up for the rather industrial feel of the location.
I filled my bag with flower heads, emptying them out onto the back yard table once I was home. I spent a little bit of time freeing up the critters and snipping off as much of the green stems as I could manage, counting the flower heads as I went. This year we had gathered 63 so enough for 2.5 batches of cordial - result!
I have adapted this Sarah Raven recipe, leaving out the limes and reducing the sugar. Elderflower cordial is a cinch to make, this is it in a nutshell....
Put 1.5L boiling water into a large pan on the hob with 1kg of white sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring as the sugar melts.
Add in 25 polleny elderflower heads (stalks removed), stir well and bring back to the boil. Take the pan off the heat.
Add in 30g citric acid (I buy from the local health food shop, but you can find it on Amazon), plus 2 sliced oranges and 2 sliced lemons.
Stir well, cover and leave to cool. I leave mine to infuse for 48 hours, then strain using a jelly bag (this sort of thing), giving the bag a good squeeze to get all the juice from the citrus fruit out. Then bottle the precious liquid and keep it in the fridge ready for when you need to quench your thirst....
....ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, the very taste of Summer in a glass!
Elderflower cordial is diluted with water the same as you would dilute a fruit squash, but I have heard rumour that it is also very good added to a glass of prossecco. I may have to give that a whirl over the weekend (this recipe sounds delicious) as the idea of sitting around in the sunshine sipping a chilled Elderflower Bellini is very, very appealing indeed. Roll on Saturday.........
ps elderflower cordial also freezes well, I save up small 250ml water bottles to use for this purpose.