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June signals one major event in my foraging year…Elderflowers! These creamy white umbels of sweet and fragrant flowers grow on Elder trees and later in the year will transform into earthy Elderberries. For now though, the flowers are out and can be used to add flavour and aroma to both drinks and desserts. If you have never had Elderflowers before, they’re intensely fragrant and pair well with sugar and citrusy flavours.
One of the best ways to start off any Elderflower concoction though is to infuse the flowers to and make a cordial. A cordial is essentially a sweet syrup that is commonly diluted in water, juice, and alcohol to make a summery floral drink. It can also be used to flavour cakes, icings, puddings, and other sweet recipes.
First off you have to find your Elderflowers. Growing wild across Europe and North America, there is only one other flower that looks similar so foraging them is fairly safe. Saying that, I myself have made the error in picking Rowan flowers instead of Elder in years past and can only say that you’ll know for sure that the flowers you pick are truly the ones you’re after if they smell like Elderflowers. Rowan flowers are harmless but they don’t have the beautiful aroma and flavour that you’re after. The image above shows Elderflowers growing on the tree so you can also have a look at the leaves.
Makes about two litres / 1.75 Quarts
30 Elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of three Lemons and one Lime
Juice of three Lemons and one Lime
1kg / 4 cups Sugar
1.5 Litres / 3.17 Quarts Boiling water
1. Pick the Elderflowers and set them outside for a couple of hours so that any tiny bugs hiding in the blossoms have a chance to make their escape. I place the flowers outside on just a sheet of kitchen paper.
2. Zest the three lemons and one lime and place the zest in a bowl. Put the fruit in the refrigerator since it will be a full day before you come back to using them.
3. Next pull the white flowers off the green flower stalks/umbels and put them in the bowl with the zest. Some people will recommend using a fork to pull the flowers off but I just use my fingers. The thicker green stalks can make your cordial bitter so try to remove as many of them as possible.
4. Pour the boiling water over the flowers and zest and let it infuse overnight.
5. The next day and just before you begin making the cordial you’ll want to place your bottles in the oven to warm them up. If you haven’t sterilised them before now, you can put them in the oven at about 130°C / 270°F for thirty minutes. The bottles should be warm when you pour the hot liquid inside.
6.Next strain the liquid off the infusion and place it in a large saucepan along with the juice from the three lemons and lime that you zested the day before. Warm the infusion then add the sugar and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil before lowering the heat and allow to simmer for ten minutes.
7. Using a funnel, pour the cordial into the bottles and seal. Once cooled, the cordial can be used right away but unopened, the bottles of cordial have a shelf life of about a year. Enjoy ~