Spring is the time for delicate, fragrant elderflowers to begin springing up around the countryside – amongst many other things.
Since we moved out of the city three years ago to a very small town in a rural area, I wouldn’t say we have become more ‘in tune’ with the countryside, but we are certainly more observant and aware of what is growing and when.
So I have now learned to be on the look out for elderflower around the end of October, and in my little rolodex of a brain, I catalog Elderflower trees when we are out and about, remembering them for when I need to go and raid them (like just now for flowers, and around February for berries).
We have an Elderflower tree in our garden, but we cut it right back last year because it was growing in a rather strange, untidy way. This year it has had the grand total sum of four flower heads on it, so… not exactly going to make a year’s worth of cordial with that measly amount!
I made Elderflower cordial and Elderflower champagne last year – but the cordial was the real hit! I serve a dash of cordial in sparkling wine, and it’s refreshing, perfumed and oh-so-sophisticated! (WARNING: grand visions of playing croquet on the lawn, dressed to the nines Downton Abbey-style, being served by suited wait staff come to mind when drinking this). Not to mention the vaguely smug feeling I always get from using something I have made from something I have grown…
So, for Elderflower Cordial you will need:
20 Elderflower heads (if you can pick them when they have just opened, they will be at their best)
4 cups caster sugar
1.5 litres of boiling water
2 lemons (sliced)
1 orange (sliced)
50gm citric acid
1) Gently wash the Elderflower heads to remove any dirt and bugs.
2) Place the sugar in a pot and pour the boiling water on top. Give it a good stir, and leave to cool down a bit.
3) Add the fruit, flowers, and citric acid, and give a gentle stir. (If you are a little hasty, as I was, and add the flower to the water before it cools, it turns the flowers brown – which apparently effects the flavor of the syrup… but I can’t taste it!)
4) Leave it for 24 hours in a cool spot – give it a gentle stir when you remember.
5) After 24 hours strain the cordial through fine muslin cloth (this will get the remaining bugs out), and then bottle in sterilized bottles with a tight fitting lid (I used bottles my husband has for making homebrew, which are absolutely perfect – except for being brown glass, so you can’t really see what’s inside).
I doubled the recipe this time and ended up with five 750ml bottles with a bit left over – just perfect for sampling with glass of good New Zealand sparkling wine, out on the deck on a warm spring afternoon.
Once you open a bottle of cordial it pays to keep it in the fridge. I’m not really sure how long the unopened bottles would last for, as in our house they don’t have much of a chance to stay unopened!!