It’s that time of year again: the brief but wonderful elderflower season is here! Last year I almost missed it – by the time I went to pick them the flowers had finished down here in the south, and it was only when I went home to Cumbria for a week that I managed to find any!
This year I was determined to be more organised, and so, after our strawberry picking adventure the other week, Josh, Ali and I headed out on a walk to gather elderflowers. They’re such beautiful, delicate flowers, with a smell that encapsulates summer. Their heady fragrance translates to the cordial: lifting the lid to stir while it infuses fills the room with their scent. It’s a wonderful way to get a taste of summer.
Ingredients (makes about 2L):
– 200g elderflowers (20-25 heads)
– 1kg caster sugar
– 2 lemons, quartered
– 2 limes, quartered
– 50g citric acid
You will also need: a funnel, a muslin cloth, and 4 x 500ml clip-top glass bottles
1. Rinse the elderflower heads under cold water to remove any dirt or insects; set aside to dry a little. Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1.25l of water and stir in the caster sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat, stir in the fruit and set aside to cool.
2. Add the elderflower heads and citric acid to the pan with the sugar syrup. Stir, then put on a lid. Leave to infuse for 24-48 hours, stirring a couple of times a day.
3. Sterilise your glass bottles: wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water, then allow to dry in a low oven (about 100°C).
4. Discard the fruit and elderflowers from the cordial, then place the muslin cloth into the funnel. Pour the cordial through this into a large jug, then repeat and transfer it to another (or back to the original pan, if you’ve cleaned it). Pour it through the muslin and funnel once more to transfer to the sterilised bottles.
5. Wipe down the bottles, then store in fridge where it should keep for up to three months (it can also be frozen in freezer-safe containers). Pour over ice and dilute with water to serve.
Tip: if left to infuse for more than 48 hours the cordial will begin to ferment – a process which produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. If this happens you can slow the process by putting in the fridge.