Friday, 5 June 2009

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

So the sun seems to be gone (hopefully only temporarily!) but luckily I made the most of the last rays yesterday by gathering elderflowers from our garden tree to make cordial. The elder tree is a bit of a crazy grower so we are constantly cutting it back (you probably know it, it grows all over the place in hedgegrows, on wasteland and in the countryside etc). We gave it a really good haircut last weekend and then I dreamt about how many pleasant days we're going to have sitting under it once the garden is finally sorted out (whenever that may be..).


Apparently the Elder tree is known as a medicine chest - the flowers, leaves and berries cure all sorts of things from colds and flus to asthma, painful joints and headaches! Actually the tree is said to have a spirit called an Elder Mother, (I'm loving this legend already!) with many powers including protecting the land from negative energy and lightning attacks (!). Apparently we should show great respect for the Elder Mother and ask permission before picking the flowers and berries and cutting branches. Oops...we didnt realise this until recently but Im sure she appreciated all the trimmings to keep her looking good. Anyhow...onto the cordial...

HOMEMADE ELDER MOTHERS ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

The elder tree flowers for about 6 weeks between May & July. The flower heads are best picked on a really sunny day when they are all open. Only pick the bright flowery heads that are laced with pollen (obviously not great if you suffer from hay-fever, so beware!). It's advisable not to pick from a tree that is beside a traffic polluted road for obvious reasons. Please remember to be careful when climbing up a ladder or wall! The citric acid in the recipe helps preserve the cordial. It can be bought in pharmacies or health food stores (but you might have to search a few as not all stores sell it - it is said to be used by junkies also!). Read the label carefully as it can cause irritation to the skin if not handled correctly. I used those gorgeous French Lemonade bottles which we had leftover to store the cordial. And remember..don't forget to ask the Elder Mother for permission to pick her flowers!

**Click here for 2010's Elderflower Cordial story**


Makes about 2.75L
(you will need enough stopper or screw topped bottles to take this amount)

2kg caster or granulated sugar
1.2L water
about 40-50 freshly picked elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid

Stir the sugar and water together well in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Bring very slowly to the boil stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

While that is heating up, gently rinse the elderflower heads to get rid of any bugs and pick off any leaves or brown flowers. Place the flowers in a really large bowl, or even better a bucket (in fact I use a clean cool box).

Remembering to keep an eye on and stir the sugar mixture still, shave a few pieces of zest off the lemons with a peeler or small knife. Thickly slice the lemons and scatter them over the flower heads.


Take the dissolved sugar mixture off the heat and stir in the pieces of lemon zest and then the citric acid to dissolve. Carefully pour the sugar syrup over the flowers and lemon slices and stir everything together to make sure it is immersed. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool dry place to soak for 24 hours.

After this time, you are ready to finish and bottle. It's important to sterilise the storage bottles (to avoid any nasty growths) so wash them in hot water and then dry them out in a low oven (about 170C) for about 15 minutes (or alternatively, run them through a hot dishwasher without powder).


Strain the soaking flowers through a very fine sieve lined with a piece of clean muslin, j-cloth or coffee filter into a large jug. Squeeze out as much of the syrup as possible from the flowers (but not so much the lemon slices) so as not to waste a drop!

Then the easiest way to bottle the cordial is though a funnel. Pop the lids on tightly and store in a cool dry place for a few months (although some people say up to a year - just keep a check out for any fur!). It can be frozen too but perhaps use smaller bottles so you can defrost a little at a time and use plastic instead of glass bottles (leaving a good gap from the top to allow for expansion on freezing). Once opened it should be stored in the fridge.

Use the cordial as a refreshing drink obviously - use enough cordial to sparkling or soda water to taste and with plenty of ice and some mint sprigs if you fancy too. It is also delicious with a swig of gin or vodka or added to bubbly. Also use the cordial to make jellies, sorbet or ice-cream. Use it to sweeten gooseberries or rhubarb in cooking too.

These are ideal to give as gifts to friends. Pretty the bottles up by sticking fun labels on, covering the tops with fabric or paper and then wrap with colourful ribbons.

Next, I'm thinking elderflower champagne and then elderberry wine in the autumn....

6 comments:

Ciara said...

Oooh! Thanks for this! I always say I'll do it... and then I don't. The problem is a very industrious friend who always makes enough for an army.

Maybe this will be the year I actually do it myself!

Ciara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fiona said...

Hi Sharon, cant believe you posted this, I forgot to look at your site for ages and wanted to make the cordial last weekend, we made a few litres and followed Sophie Grigson recipe (pretty much same as yours). it is great! Conor helped decorate the labels so you would be proud of us!!

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

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