2 Jun 2014 Drinks
Yay, it’s that time of year again that the gorgeous Elder tree in my garden blooms heavily with hundreds of fragrant flower heads. There is a fairly small window of opportunity to harvest the flowers but then I get to enjoy it right through until next year as an Elderflower cordial. It makes for a really refreshing drink which everyone just loves. Use enough cordial to sparkling or soda water to taste and with plenty of ice and some mint sprigs if you fancy too. It is also delicious with a swig of gin or vodka or added to bubbly. Also use the cordial to make jellies, sorbet or ice-cream or use it to sweeten gooseberries or rhubarb when stewing.
1. Stir the sugar and water together well in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring very slowly to the boil stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
2. Meanwhile, gently rinse the elderflower heads to get rid of any bugs and pick off any leaves or brown flowers. Place the flowers in a really large bowl or bucket.
3. Using a peeler or small knife to shave a few pieces of zest from each of the lemons and stir them through the sugar syrup. Thickly slice the lemons and scatter them over the flower heads.
4. Stir the citric acid into the sugar syrup until dissolved and then carefully pour the mixture over the flowers and lemon slices. Stir everything together to make sure it is well immersed. Cover and leave in a cool dry place to soak for 24 hours.
5. After this time, you are ready to finish and bottle. It’s important to sterilise the storage bottles (to avoid any nasty growths) so wash them in hot water and then dry them out in a low oven (about 170C) for about 15 minutes (or alternatively, run them through a hot dishwasher without powder).
6. Strain the soaking flowers through a very fine sieve lined with a piece of clean muslin, j-cloth or coffee filter into a large jug. Squeeze out as much of the syrup as possible from the flowers (but not so much the lemon slices) so as not to waste a drop!
7. Then the easiest way to bottle the cordial is though a funnel. Then pop the lids on tightly and store in a cool dry place for a few months (although some people say up to a year – just keep a check out for any fur!). It can be frozen too but perhaps use smaller bottles so you can defrost a little at a time and use plastic instead of glass bottles (leaving a good gap from the top to allow for expansion on freezing). Once opened it should be stored in the fridge.
* The citric acid in the recipe helps preserve the cordial. It can be bought in pharmacies or health food stores (but you might have to search a few as not all stores sell it – it is said to be used by junkies also!). Read the label carefully as it can cause irritation to the skin if not handled correctly. A bottle of cordial is an ideal gift to give to friends.
Makes about 2.75L
2kg caster or granulated sugar
about 40-50 freshly picked elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid*
enough stopper or screw topped bottles to take this amount