I love seeing the elderflowers appear, as to me it signifies summer approaching. We picked them a few weeks ago when it was 27 degrees. They are best picked on a warm day. The last week hasn't been the best as it has rained a lot. Top tip... you don't want to pick elderflowers after it has rained as it washes off all of the pollen which gives the cordial its delicious flavour. This is also the reason you don't wash it before making your cordial.
So how are you going to get as clean as possible elderflowers to work with? Here's some tips to keep in mind:
- Pick away from roads
- Pick high, out of reach of animals such as dogs so you can make sure your flowers are free from urine... Always a good start!
- Look at the flowers as you are picking them, some are absolutely covered in little bugs, leave those on the tree or pick from another tree if that one is covered.
Before we move on to the recipe, I wanted to talk about foraging sustainably. The birds love the elderberries, so if we pick a large portion of flowers from one area, there will not be enough berries in autumn for the birds (and not enough to make elderberry wine!)
So please make sure you are foraging with the birds in mind.
20-30 elderflower heads
1 lemon (grated
25gm of citric acid
750ml hot water
1 kg of sugar
Some recipes say 10 elderflower heads but I like to put in 20-30 elderflower heads (this also allows for variations in the size of the flower heads as well). I collect mine in a plastic bag as I'm usually on a bike. But there is no reason you couldn't collect them in a basket or something similar. When you have brought them home, you need to trim off as much of the stem as possible from each elderflower head. Some of the plant is toxic, so you want to minimise toxicity and also the stem makes it bitter. It's time consuming, but well worth it.
Put the sugar and citric acid in a large saucepan and pour on the boiling water.
Gently stir the syrup until the sugar is dissolved. I say gently as I recently splashed myself with the hot liquid.
Grate and then slice your lemon.
Now add your lemon slices, lemon rind and your trimmed elderflower heads to the syrup. Push all of the elderflowers down so everything is immersed in the liquid.
Leave it all to seep for 24 hours.
Strain it through a large sieve to separate the flower heads and the lemon slices.
You will then be left with the liquid, but so you are left with a nice clear cordial, do one or two final strains through a muslin cloth or you could even use a clean pair of tights.
I like to put mine in small plastic bottles and freeze them so I can enjoy the taste of summer for many months!
Enjoy! It's delicious mixed with still or sparkling water and is very welcome on warm day!
One final thought... I often forage alone but on this occasion I foraged with a friend and then we made the cordial together. It was a reminder about a key aspect of our hunter gatherer past that these things would have been done with others and how much more enjoyment is gained by doing these things together. So go and forage with a friend!