I’m going on holiday next week. This made me panic that the elderflowers might be gone by the time I got back, so yesterday I thought that I’d preserve some by making elderflower cordial.
The first, and most important part is furtling out the elderflowers. To do this, I phoned Katie – my best foraging friend.
Her family live in the Scottish wilderness. When I last went to stay, there was a beaver in the chest freezer along with a wide assortment of road kill that more than likely ended up in a pie of some sorts.
If you thought that she left her foraging ways when she moved down south, you’d be wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I got hold of some mussels, so I phoned Katie to see if she wanted to come and help eat them. She said she’d come with some crusty bread. She did. But later admitted that she’d nicked the baguette from a bin out the back of a Paul Patisserie. Oh well. It tasted delicious.
Anyway, I kitted myself out with boat shoes, foraging bag and camera, and set off on my elderflower expedition. Much to my disappointment, I found an enormous elderflower bush in the field next to my house. I decided to ignore this though (I was in the mood for a walk) so Katie and I trekked a couple of miles up the canal and back. Typically, we didn’t find any elderflowers by the canal, so we returned to the original bush, and picked thirty heads.
The first thing I did was to weigh out 1kg of sugar, and stir it into 1.5litres of boiling water over a gentle heat until the sugar had completely dissolved. Next, I put the pan outside to cool down.
In the meantime, I gave the elderflowers a good shake – there were several creepy crawlies hiding in them, and I thought it was nicer to pick them out than condemn them to a syrupy death.
I poured the liquid into a big tub (I’d found one one with a lid, just for hygiene’s sake) and then I chucked in all of my elderflowers and couple of sliced lemons for good measure.
Leave for 48 hours, stirring from time to time.
Two days later, your house should be filled with springtime aromas, and the syrup will have thickened, and turned a deep yellow colour.
Some recipes suggest that you leave the elderflowers to stew for five days – others say that two will do…but did I mention that I’m going on holiday? …so, two it was.
I thought that it would be best to double strain the elderflower cordial. For the first strain, I balanced a sieve on top of a jug, and ladelled the liquid into it. This took out the lemon, flower heads, and couple of dead insects, but the liquid still had some little specks in it.
For the second strain, I got a single, unused, Primark pop sock, which I held with one hand as I poured the liquid through it using the other hand.
Finally, I poured the elderflower cordial into five 100ml water bottles. Four of them are now in the freezer, and the other is in my fridge door for a post-work pint of fizzy elderflower – bliss!