I look forward to the first few Elderflower blooms on the tree at the allotment. For me it really marks the start of the growing season, and in particular the start of the period of cropping from the allotment. At the moment the Queen of the Hedgerow is covering the land with white blooms and its heady scent. Elderflower has historically been known as a medicinal herb; being diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-catarrhal, and can be prepared as tea, tincture or a cold infusion. In culinary terms it is used in fritters, and perhaps most often made into a cordial. For me an ice cold drink of Elderflower cordial with a sprig of mint is the perfect summer afternoon refresher, and best of all its cheap and easy to make your own.
You will need
About 25 elderflower heads – Elderflowers need to be picked in the first half of the day and in sunshine in order to get the best cordial.
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
Check out the elderflower heads carefully and remove any bugs and bits. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Pour 1.5 litres boiling water over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave to infuse overnight. Strain the liquid through a jelly bag, before pouring into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid to help preserve the drink and make it clear. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. Once ready, use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, then pasteurise for twenty minutes at 80°C. Even without pasteurisation I have had bottles last for several months, and enjoyed the cordial well into the autumn.
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