What could be more English than a glass of homemade elderflower cordial drunk in an English garden in the evening of Midsummer’s Day?
I picked the elderflowers on Midsummer’s eve and bottled them on Midsummer’s day.
Today is Midsummer’s day and for those of us in the Northern hemisphere the longest day of the year, for those in the Southern hemisphere it is the shortest day, and they now have the pleasure of looking forward to longer days and the coming of spring. Such are the vagaries of English weather the middle of June often feels like late spring and although the today middle of that day was baking hot there distinct chill at either end; at 10pm I am sitting in a fleece at my computer.
The delicate spring like elderflower abounds during June, seemingly in every hedgerow and garden. I love the idea of foraging from the countryside and cooking with my bounty. Elderflower cordial is the obvious thing to make with my flowers. I also was thinking of a delicate jam or jelly – perhaps pairing them with rhubarb or gooseberries, but in my limited time the cordial won. Naturally the best blooms were situated over a bed of nettles, so I dressed in my best protective clothing of wellies, jeans and a long sleeved top and waded in; brandishing my secateurs! I am delighted to have discovered a simple way to preserve my cordial; seemingly indefinately so it no longer needs to be kept in the fridge.
When the elderflowers start to come into bloom start to save your screw top wine and spirit bottles to decant your cordial into.
Elderflower Cordial (makes about 3 wine bottles full)
20 heads of elderflower
1 kg sugar
4 lemons (or 2 lemons and 2 oranges)
55g citric acid
(Campden tablets to preserve your cordial)
Pick your elderflower heads and give them a very good shake as they will be full of bugs. Place in a bowl, slice the lemons (or oranges) and add to the elderflower blooms.
Place the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil stirring until the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat, add the citric acid and stir to dissolve it. Pour the sugar syrup over the elderflower and citrus mix and leave for 24 hours.
Sterilise your bottles by placing them in a cold oven, turn the temperature to (150C / 300F / GM 2) then after 15 minutes turn off. Decant the cordial by staining through a layer of cheesecloth or muslin into the warm bottles. If you want to preserve your cordial leave a gap at the top of each bottle. Seal the bottles and keep in the fridge, dilute 1 part to 5 with still of fizzy water. Alternatively decant the cordial into plastic bottles so you can freeze it.
To preserve add one Campden Tablet per gallon of cordial, these should be available in any hardware store – or shop that sells wine and beer making supplies. These tablets contain potassium or sodium metabisulphite which will kill or inhibit the growth of the bacteria and yeast that will cause your cordial to go off. As an extra precaution you can also add a fermentation inhibitor at the same time. I had 10 wine bottles of cordial, which is about 7.5 litres. At 4.5 litres to an imperial gallon I needed just over 1.5 Campden tablets to add to my cordial so I dissolved 1 and a half tablets and some dust into 250ml water and added 25ml of the resulting mix to each bottle, shook each well and resealed. The sulphites in my cordial should greatly reduce with time as they do their work, so I left a few bottles untreated to be stored in the fridge and used over the next few weeks.
For more elderflower inspiration try my elderflower vodka – English summer in a liqueur!