I grew up in a town and cordial was something you bought from a shop. When elderflower cordial became available in foodie shops and subsequently became very fashionable, to me it was as if it had only just been invented. It is of course a traditional drink that country folk have been making for centuries but that had never, to my knowledge, made it as far as the industrial north of England, not into our house at any rate. It is as easy as anything to make and round here, right now, the trees are heaving with these fluffy cream fragrant blossoms. Now is the best time to go out foraging to pick elderflowers and stock up with cordial.
The flowers are best picked on a sunny morning, when the warmth of the sun encourages the release of their exquisite floral scent. Choose fresh clean flower heads that are just off white to pale cream and discard any that are starting to yellow, then shake the flowers, face down, so any creepy crawlies fall out. Sniff the blossoms, ditching any with an unpleasant cat-pee vibe and go only for the sweetest floral scented ones. Go to work making your cordial as soon after gathering the flowers as you can. As mentioned in my last piece, citric acid can usually be bought from your chemist and apart from that ingredient, everything else is straightforward, just water, sugar, lemons and oranges.
HOW TO MAKE ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL
Makes about 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints)
20 fresh elderflower heads
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) sugar
40g (1 1/2oz) citric acid
2 unwaxed lemons, thinly sliced
2 oranges, thinly sliced
Place the sugar and 1.2 litres (2 1/4 pints) water in a large pan and warm slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil. Add the flowers, bring again to the boil then remove immediately from the heat. Add the citrus fruits and citric acid, stir together, then leave covered in a cool place for 24 hours to steep.
Strain the cordial into clean dry sterilised bottles with clip tops or corks and label with the date. The cordial will last for a month or 2 unopened in the fridge. Once opened keep refrigerated and use it within a few weeks. You can freeze it in plastic containers, in which case it will keep for 6 months or more in the freezer.
Serve diluted with still or fizzy water to taste or use this syrup to flavour jams, desserts and icings.