On a sunny summer evening, the girls and I went foraging in the top field above the barn for elderflowers. If this all sounds terribly poetic, I should add that there were banks of nettles to be avoided, Charlotte screamed a lot and then sat down in a stream which made the screams even louder. Still it was a rural idyll if you turned the sound down.
The elderflowers are in full bloom and stunning up close.
So 20-30 heads later - that's what HF-W says but I lost count...
Elderflowers are, in my opinion, rather more lovely than the elderberry. They have a wonderful fine flavour that goes particularly well with gooseberries. However I don't have any gooseberries yet and as a total preserving novice, I started small and easy.
Elderflower cordial (recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
20-30 freshly picked heads of elderflower
zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange
up to 1.5 kg granulated or caster sugar
up to 200 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-5 lemons depending on juiciness)
tartaric acid (optional)
Shake any insects off the elderflowers, then place them in a large bowl with the lemon and orange zest and pour over enough just-boiled water to cover them completely (about 1.5 to 2 litres). Cover and leave for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until cold.
Strain the liquid through muslin, a clean cotton cloth or a jelly bag, gently squeezing it to extract all the juice. Measure the amount of liquid and pour it into a saucepan. To every 500ml liquid, add 350g sugar, 50ml lemon juice and a heaped teaspoon of tartaric acid if you are using it. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, stirring occasionally. Bring to a gentle simmer and skim off any scum. Let the cordial cool, then strain once again through muslin, cotton or a jelly bag.
Pour the cordial through a funnel into clean bottles, filling them to within about 2-3 cm of the top. Seal the bottles with screw-tops or corks. (Alternatively you can freeze it in small plastic containers.)
To serve, dilute to taste with ice-cold water - at least 5:1 water to cordial.
I didn't use tartaric acid. Do you have moments when you look at a recipe and think "not only do I not have that, I don't know what it is or where to get it?" So, I have frozen some and put some in the fridge. Now I feel inspired to head off back up the hill and make jelly, sorbets, sauces and maybe even fritters.