15 June 2009
Recipe - Elderflower Cordial from the Hedgerow
Sunday morning found me walking along a small cutting down to the River Ure hunting flower heads, or corymbs, from elder bushes. The common elder flowers in June and July over about a 6 week period. It is fairly widespread, being a bird-sown weed and is best found on wasteland and in hedgerows. I try and find trees that are fairly hidden down rarely-used lanes or in woodland as these are less covered in the fumes and dust from traffic.
I carefully collected a whole basketful of these sweet wine smelling white flowerheads. You need to try and minimise the number of insects on them and yet find those that are flowering – that is not in bud – and where the petals are not falling off.
I then like to make our own elderflower cordial. It tastes a lot nicer and more flowery than the shop bought cordials, although I never make enough so we need to resort to one of the brands later in the year.
My recipe is as follows:
24 large elderflower heads (or as many as you want so long as it's more than this)
4 large unwaxed lemons
1.8kg granulated sugar
Slice the lemons moderately thinly, discarding the ends, and put the slices into a large stainless steel pan. Pour the granulated sugar into the large pan. Add the water. Bring this sugar solution gently to the boil, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves fully. This is your sugar solution.
While the sugar solution is heating up, sort through the elderflower heads, getting rid of any insects by gently shaking the corymbs over a bowl, This ensures that you don’t lose too many of the little flowers as you can then get rid of the insects that fall in and keep the flowers. I also clip off any excess stalk and any remove leaves.
Bring the sugar solution to the boil, then remove from the heat. Add the flower heads and stir into the sugar solution. Put a lid on the solution and leave to steep for at least 24 hours. We leave for about 3 days.
Strain the cordial, then bottle in clean bottles. It should be stored in the fridge as it does not last long. We use plastic bottles that have been saved or glass bottles with screw on lids. We part fill the bottles and freeze them; you can take them out the freezer and defrost as and when you want them.
To use, simply dilute with water. A little cordial goes a long way so do not put much in a glass.