It’s July (2014) here at Tap o’ Noth Permaculture and the Elderflowers are just starting to lose their petals and reveal the young green berries that we will pick in autumn when dark and ripe. It’s been a great elderflower season this summer with the large creamy white blooms peeking out from here and there in the hedgerows. We have taken full advantage of the fragrant blossoms by picking as many as we can and making them into various tasty products. One thing we love to make that really captures the taste of summer is elderflower cordial.
This is a really simple recipe to make and is far better in taste than anything shop bought. Be warned though, make as much as you can because once bottled it won’t last long due to its amazing taste, especially when drank after a hot afternoons work in the garden.
Elderflower cordial recipe
- 50 elderflowers
- 6-8 lemons
- 2 oranges
- 3 litres of water
- 2 kg of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of citric acid (optional)
- Large bowl
- jelly bag/tea towel/old pillow case
- large pan
- cooks thermometer (optional)
Pick your elderflowers on a sunny, dry day when the blooms are open and full. Hanging a bag from your wrist is an easy way to collect the flowers as it still allows you to use both hands to pull down branches and pick the flowers from the stems. Sometimes it’s handy to take a walking stick with a hooked handle or a long rake to help reach and pull down those lovely big blooms at the top.
Try to use the flowers straight away, though they will last a couple of days if placed in a cool environment. Look for insects and remove. Place your elderflowers along with the finely grated rind of the lemons and oranges in a large bowl. Bring the 3 litres of water to the boil and pour over the flowers and rind, cover with a cloth and leave overnight or for ten hours or so.
Once the flowers have sat in the water long enough put them into a jelly bag (or an old pillowcase) and hang it up somewhere to drip into a pan. Once the bag stops dripping (I can’t resist giving it a squeeze to get all the flavoursome water out) put the pan and it’s contents on some heat and add the sugar, juice of the lemons and oranges and the citric acid and stir well until all the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer, cooking for a couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into your bottles (make sure they are clean and sterile by washing the bottles and placing them in an oven at 130 degrees C for 20 minutes) and close the lids. We use swing top bottles but you can use screw caps or jars.
Once the bottles have cooled, label and store in the fridge or a cold larder. Some reports say to drink within a month but I have found that this cordial keeps for a while, especially when using citric acid or pasteurising (see below for more on that).
Now, mix with water, drink and enjoy the taste of summer in a bottle!
If you want to preserve that taste of summer for longer than a few months there are two methods – freezing or pasteurising.
Freezing: Pour the cordial (when cold) into plastic bottles, we use milk bottles, leaving an inch or so gap at the top to allow for expansion and stick in the freezer – easy.
Pasteurising: To home pasteurise take as big a pot as you can find and line it with a tea towel/cloth and place the bottles to be pasteurised in the pan on top of the tea towel. Fill with cold water as high up the outside of the bottles as possible. Keep the bottle lids/caps open. Start heating up the bottles on your stove and insert a cooks probe thermometer into one of the bottles. You want to measure the temperature in the bottles not the surrounding water. Once the temperature in the bottles has reached 75 degrees C turn off the heat and carefully remove the VERY hot bottles, secure the caps and allow to cool. Done.