June arrives with patches of sunshine one day and blustery showers the next. The first punnets of gooseberries appear at the farm shop and along with tender young runner beans and the sweetest local strawberries. The hedgerows are green and lush, abundant with wildflowers. Cowslips and buttercups add a splash of cream and bright yellow here and there, while clusters of elderflower buds await summer’s warmth to unfurl.
This time last year I made my first attempt at small batch of elderflower cordial. It was a revelation and unlike any shop bought version I have ever tasted. The sweet heady aroma of the flowers tempered by the addition of a few slices of lemon and lime created the most intense syrup. Of course it was all the more precious because I only made a few bottles and all too quickly it was gone. I resolve to make more this year, but every time I check the flowers are not quite ready. Eventually my patience pays off and on the first bright day, I head off early to the fields with my basket.
To make the best cordial, ideally you want to pick elderflowers on a dry sunny morning, when their nectar is fresh. You may have to scout around to find the perfect place away from the pollution of busy roads to forage. Be sure to pick large open flower heads that are above thigh height in case the local canines have visited the same spot. I collect small preserving bottles throughout the year so that I can give some away as gifts. The bottled cordial will keep quite happily in the fridge for several months, if it lasts that long.
- 1 kg of granulated sugar
- Approx. 50 freshly picked elderflower heads
- 65g food grade citric acid (available online or from pharmacies)
- 2 large lemons
- 3 limes
- 4-5 x 500ml preserving bottles, sterilised
- Place the sugar in a large china, glass or enamel bowl or maslin pan.
- Pour over 1.8 litres of boiling water, stir and allow to cool completely.
- Check over the flower heads to make sure they are bug and blemish free, remove any stalks and add to the bowl.
- Slice the lemons and limes and add to the bowl along with the citric acid.
- Cover loosely with clingfilm and leave somewhere cool for 36 hours.
- After 36 hours, use a sieve to strain the liquid off and then line the sieve with a muslin cloth and strain the liquid through again.
- Using a funnel, pour the cordial into the sterilised bottles and seal.
- The cordial will keep, unopened in the fridge, for up to a year. Once open use within two weeks.