The elderflowers were out early in Dorset this year, but much later in Oxfordshire. And now, in early July, they are still out in Northern Ireland, where I’ve just returned from this week.
Elderflower has a unique fragrance and is a truly wild ingredient. You can only get it when it’s in season. It’s very easy to find and pick when in flower, and not to be confused for cow parsley growing in the verges.
I like to make it into cordial, using citric acid to stop it fermenting and to allow it to keep for longer. Citric acid is easily obtained from brewing shops and chemists, if you have never bought it before.
This cordial can be diluted with sparking water to make an elderflower pressé, mixed into a gin and tonic or drizzled onto summer fruits, such as strawberries or poached gooseberries. It also goes straight into my elderflower sorbet recipe.
- 2kg caster sugar
- 1 litre fresh cold water
- 30 large elderflower heads (must be perfect white)
- Juice and zest (use a potato peeler to take it off in thick strips) of 2 organic lemons
- 50g citric acid
- Place the sugar into a large pan. Add the water and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly, to ensure the sugar does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and cool. This makes your sugar syrup.
- When the sugar syrup is cool, add the remaining ingredients. Stir well and leave, covered in cling film, for 24 hours for the flavours to infuse.
- Pass through a sieve to remove the bits, and then a muslin cloth, to get out any last bits.
- Bottle and keep in a cool, dark place for six months.