Early June is the best time to collect Elderflowers to make a delightfully English beverage: Elderflower Cordial.
Elderflowers with their distinctive clusters of tiny creamy- white flowers line the hedgerows of country lanes and churchyards alike in the month of June. They are best picked on a sunny day in the morning, and never when wet from rain. Sniff the blooms first to see if they are freshly and sweetly perfumed and remove any creepy-crawlies. If the blooms are marvellous, pick 20-25 heads to make the following recipe for 2 Litres of Cordial (courtesy of the River Cottage archives).
- About 20-25 elderflower heads
- Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
- 1kg sugar
- 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional, if you want the Cordial to keep for longer than a few weeks – Citric Acid can be found in brewing shops or in Wilkinson’s)
Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles
Serve the cordial, diluted with ice-cold water or lemonade, as a summer refresher, or mix with sparkling wine or Champagne for a tipple.