When we lived in the country, one of my early summer routines was to make a batch of elderflower cordial. We had elders growing everywhere on the paddock, so on a sunny June (or late May) day, I'd take a large canvas bag with me and go and harvest the young flower heads.
Since we've moved to London, I haven't really been around during the short 1-2 week window when the flowers are at their best, but this year when I walked the terrier I kept spotting perfect elderflowers all around Shepherd's Cot and Queen's Wood.
Last weekend I decided to make some, and thought you'd like to have my recipe. I use a little less sugar and more lemon, which makes the cordial a little sharper in taste. I also use a little brown sugar for a more interesting colour and taste.
1.5 litres of water
1.5 kg white sugar (castor or granulated)
0.5 kg brown sugar
20 (or so) elderflower heads (choose ones which have just come into bloom)
3 unwaxed lemons
85 g citric acid
This makes about 5 litres of finished cordial.
Put the sugar and water into a large pan and heat up slowly until the sugar dissolves. Then boil the mixture up really quickly and turn off the heat.
Pare the rind off the lemons, and using a sharp knife remove as much of the white skin as possible. Slice the lemons and put the slices and the rind (not the white part of the skin) into the syrup, together with the citric acid.
Wash the elder flowers to remove any insects and add them to the syrup too. Give the mixture a gentle stir and leave for 24 hours.
The next day, using funnel and a muslin cloth, distil the syrup into clean bottles. I put the bottles through the dishwasher and use them when they are hot out of the machine.
I serve the cordial with slices of lemon and ice, or mixed sparkling water. You can also drizzle some over strawberries, or over a fruit salad. The elderflower cordial is also delicious with champagne or white wine, or to make any cocktail where you need a sugar syrup. Plus it makes the perfect non-alcoholic beverage at any party.
The cordial should keep for a few months, but to be safe, I keep mine in the fridge. Although in our house, the stuff disappears within weeks of it being made.