when I was young, but I didn't realise at the time quite how simple it is to make. Ashamedly, despite being quite the country bumpkin, I wasn't sure what an elderflower tree even looked like. I spent much of my childhood being sent out to pick blackberries, raspberries and other fruits, but never made anything with elderflowers.
So a couple of weeks ago when I was back in Somerset visiting my parents (and their puppy more importantly!) my mum and I decided to go and find some elderflowers, to make cordial. Given the price of the shop-bought variety, I assumed that elderflower trees were not very common, even in the countryside, but they really are everywhere! They apparently tend to grow not in the complete wilderness, but near to civilisation and often against walls. We found a lot either side of a footpath, up near to Cheddar gorge. Apparently they should be picked early on a bright sunny morning, and if they are starting to turn brown, then it's too late in the season for that tree. They flower over a relatively short period, from late May/early June to the end of July. (so it's not too late for this year!) The flowers are small and white and grow in umbrella shape formations.
I looked for a recipe for a cordial online, but found that each one I looked at was very different to the next, so I took an average amount of the ingredients called for. Unfortunately I couldn't get hold of any citric acid which is normally mentioned, but I found it worked just fine without, although it will last much less longer. However if you are making it for a special occasion, or plan to freeze any, that shouldn't be an issue.
So here's the recipe I used:
30 heads of elderflower
2.5 pounds of sugar
1.5 litres of water
- Put 30 heads of elderflower with the stalks snipped very short into a large, sterilised plastic bowl.
- Using a potato peeler, peel off the zest of the lemons, and then slice them and add all of this to the bowl.
- Heat the sugar with the water until it is completely dissolved. Wait for it to cool, then add to the bowl. Place a tea towl over the top, and leave for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, sieve the mixture through a fine muslin cloth to catch all the flowers, and bottle it.
The end result is quite a sweet cordial with a more flowery taste than the commercial products, but really rather tasty! This amount filled 3 jam jars and a small plastic bottle. (the photo below is taken after a lot had been drunk already!) However if I was to make it again I would possibly make a few changes to the recipe, adding around 55g of citric acid, perhaps an extra lemon, and slightly less sugar, maybe just one pack of sugar (2.2lbs).
So it's not too late to make some yourself, but this lovely weather to drink it in won't last forever!