By Claire Smail
On route to the beach this morning I suddenly noticed that it is that time of year again, elderflower time and to me that means only one thing; time to make another batch of elderflower cordial. I love having a few bottles of this cordial as it is a lovely refreshing drink with sparkling water, a great addition to a cheeky gin and tonic, one of my favourite flavour additions to a Victoria sponge and lastly makes really, really delicious ice lollies.
At some point between May and June each summer the hedgerow suddenly become adorned with bunches of these tiny, white, sweet smelling flowers and if you head out and gather enough of these aromatic blossoms you can infuse a simple sugar syrup into a fresh, versatile cordial.
The first thing is to know what to look for when searching for the flowers as when you are foraging you must be fully aware of what you are picking and whether it is indeed edible. At this time of year you can find a few plants and trees with white flowers on, so here is a guide from the Woodland Trust on how to identify it if you are unsure, https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2017/05/identify-elderflower-and-how-to-use/ . (If you are at all unsure we do not advise that you consume the foraged items and that you seek advice from an experienced forager)
I have been harvesting and making elderflower cordial for several years now so I always tend to go back to the same trees as they are not located next to any roads (avoiding car fumes) or on private land (as then I would need permission to pick the flowers). All you will need is a bag and pair of scissors; however I would also recommend wearing long trousers and proper shoes as there always seems to be a good old bunch of nettles close by.
When it comes to selecting the sprigs of elderflowers, I tend to only select the ones that are fully in bloom, not the ones where half the flowers are still closer up or the ones where half the flowers are turning brown with age.
To make a batch of Elderflower Cordial you will need:
1.5 litres boiling water
3 large lemons, washed
30 large Elderflower heads
60g citric acid
You will also need:
Glass bottles or jars, sterilised (to hold just under 2 litres of cordial)
A piece of muslin or very fine mesh net to strain the cordial
Large saucepan or heatproof bowl
Sheets of newspaper
How to make:
Once you have picked the Elderflower heads, lay them out on a piece of newspaper outside to let any insects crawl away.
Now to prepare the simple sugar syrup you need to add the sugar and boiling water to the large pan. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved and leave to cool.
Zest the lemons and then cut them into quarters before adding it all to the sugar water.
Add in the citric acid and stir until the crystals have dissolved.
Finally the elderflower; cut off any large thick stems and shake each bunch of flowers (to remove any insects that might be left) before adding them to the sugar mixture. Stir in the flowers so they are submerged in the liquid.
You now need to let the flavour of the elderflower infuse the cordial by covering the bowl with a lid and leave to steep for 48 hours.
When the cordial is ready you need to strain the whole mixture through a clean piece of fine muslin cloth into a bowl (I pick one with a spout).
Then pour into the sterilised bottles (to sterilise them I wash them really well in hot, soapy water, rinse well and then place in the oven on a low heat to dry out and sterilise) and seal with the lid.
The cordial can be stored in a cool, dark place until it is needed. Then once it is open keep in the fridge.
To make the Elderflower Cordial Ice Lollies you will need:
Ice lolly moulds
How to make:
I like my elderflower ice lollies to be made out of half cordial and half water. I create this mixture in a jug so it can be stirred well before it is poured into the lolly moulds and place in the freezer. After several hours or ideally overnight your lollies will freeze and be ready for the next sunny day.