Monday, 15 June 2009

Elderflower Cordial

This is one of my favourite times of year: the smells and associations of summer; enjoying the first hot days or the anticipation of those to come (not that they’ve materialised over the last two years); the rumble of a hay-making tractor; looking forward to Wimbledon. I love seeing the bright green of a grass tennis court on the television screen and hearing the comforting crack of balls being hit. When I lived abroad it was a sound which made me homesick for an English summer. With Wimbledon comes harvest; I usually harvest our soft fruit listening to the Women’s Final. This week I’ve made my Elderflower Cordial.

I think I enjoy making Elderflower Cordial more for the smell while making it than actually drinking it. Without trying to sound too like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I enjoy the rawness of such a fantastic ingredient from nature. There’s no boiling or cooking, you just shake the heads to get out most of the insects (you do strain it later) then plunge them into sugar syrup. This retains the delicate sweetness which I love in elderflowers, their soft yellow pollen dust which gets everywhere when you pick them. For the twenty-four hours the cordial is infusing, the smell pervades the house, a fantastic scent of flowers and lemon.

It’s a great product of the hedgerows, which are looking fantastic at the moment - sadly I’ve been studying them closely recently, out looking for our lost cat. There are buttercups, honeysuckle, red and white campion, tall pink foxgloves, sprays of cow parsley, balls of purple clover, drooping heads of oats, thick moon daisies, tall wavy soft grass heads, hay fever for my three-year old.

There is always something to remember about making the cordial. The first year I tried to make it I realised it was not as easy at seems - I couldn’t find any citric acid anywhere as all the old dears in the district had bought it all. Now I’ve turned into a country bumpkin myself I’m one of those irritating people who buys their citric acid in May so I can smugly have full supplies when the elderflowers come out.

This year my one-year old daughter came to pick the flowers with me in her buggy, grinning while I ducked into the tree for the best heads. When shaking them over the sink a little maggot like grub dropped out, that was a bit too much nature, even for me.

My cordial is successfully made for this year and T (the five-year old) has developed a taste for it. My husband has caught the elderflower enthusiasm – he’s currently brewing some elderflower champagne. I’m expecting to be woken in the night by the shed exploding.

The very simple elderflower cordial recipe I use is by Sophie Grigson and can be found at:

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