Readers of my garden blog will know all about Prudence because Prudence it was who, three years ago, gave me the massive sack of daffodil bulbs which resulted in our Ice Folly tick each spring.
And Prudence has been nagging me for all of those three years about the large elderflower bush which grows up the left hand side of our garden by the house. Why was I not using it to make elderflower cordial?
The problem was that the bush was so big that, unless you were a squirrel or a bird, the chances of getting at more the 5% of the flowers was nil. Until, that is…. I got my long lopper – a Fiskars UP 86! A super sharp pair of secateurs stuck on top of an arm which extends up to 6 metres – yes, that is all but 20 feet in old money… Not to the very highest elders, but a pretty good way up.
So, I summoned Prudence, and her recipe, and we got work. As she pointed out, it is incredibly simple to make elderflower cordial – and it is the most delicious of stuff.
approx 2 litres water
This should be the fresh spring water. Prudence used to collect hers from the Malvern Hills but I am afraid that since the Hampstead Springs are no longer accessible for cordial makers, we had to make do with Buxton best in plastic bottles…
approx 2 kilos sugar
We argued a bit about this as I reckoned (and still reckon) that it was a bit much, but Prudence has does this before so I did not want to be too dogmatic.
50g citric acid
You need to get this from a chemist but be warned, not all them have it.
25+ elderflower heads
Basically as many as you can cram into your bowl. Trim them so that you only have a small amount of stem left – see below.
2–3 each lemons and limes
- Heat your water – it will make the sugar melt quicker.
- Tip the sugar and citric acid into a large bowl and pour over the hot water.
- Stir reasonably vigorously until the sugar is totally melted.
- Add the elderflowers and with a wooden spoon push them well down into the water.
- Slice the lemons and lime thinly and lay them over the top of the elderflowers, again making sure they are well soaked in the liquid.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave for 24-48 hours.
- Prepare some clean bottles. Prudence had brought some lovely shaped glass bottles but since we had picked about 125 elderflower heads we had far too much for that and ended up using the Buxton plastics!
- Get ready a sieve, a ladle, some more clean tea towels, some more bowls, a jug and a funnel. This is a seriously sticky business and you need to try to make sure that the sugary water does not get too much further than you want it to!!
- Ladle the elderflower from its bowl into the sieve over a clean bowl. You need to catch the bulk of the flowers and the fruit. Discard flowers and fruit.
- Using another sieve and a clean tea towel, ladle the cordial from the bowl into a jug through the tea towel and sieve to get out any recalcitrant bits of flower, bug or whatever. You will need to squeeze this through the teatowel with your hand – the moment at which you are most likely to cover yourself – and the table – and floor – with ultra sticky sugar syrup!!
- Pour the cordial via the funnel (unless your hand is extremely steady) into your bottles and cork up tightly.
- Store in a cool dark place.
- To drink, pour a small amount of cordial into the bottom a glass and top up with flat or sparkling water. I think several blocks of ice add to the charm but not everyone will agree.