It's elderflower time. Elder is rampant in the hedges around my house. Yesterday I filled my bike basket with elderflowers and brought them home to begin making elderflower cordial. I've been making it for at least five years now and it couldn't be easier or more rewarding.
I use the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with a little simplification of my own.
20-30 elderflower heads
Put the flowers (shake any insects off first) in a large bowl with the zest of the lemons.
Pour over about 2 litres of just-boiled water and leave to infuse overnight. The flowers will turn brown, this is fine.
The next day pour the flowers and water into a jelly-bag or sieve lined with a bit of muslin. Let all the liquid drain out, squeeze it to get it all. Measure the liquid and for every 500 ml add 350 gm of sugar and 50 ml of lemon juice- 5 lemons should do it. The original recipe adds tartaric acid at this point. This is to enable it to keep for a long time in bottles. I never bother with it preferring to freeze what I can't use immediately.
Put everything in a large pan and stir over a low heat to dissolve all the sugar. Then bring to a gentle simmer -don't boil it. Leave to cool. Strain again and pour into sterilised bottles. I do this by pouring boiling water into them. A funnel is useful for bottling. I still managed to get an awful lot of cordial over my worktop, floor and feet. It is very sticky.
I filled two of these bottles-they used to hold passata.
It will keep for several weeks in the fridge. I froze the rest of mine. I'm using plastic bags inside tubs here because all my tubs smell of onions.
Dilute it about 1 part cordial with 5 parts water. We like sparkling.
Serve with ice and hand to teenaged boys as soon as they get in from school.