Elderflower cordial

I am seriously obsessed with elderflower cordial.  It’s incredible.  We served it at our Scotland wedding (we had two weddings, one here in GA and one across the pond).  I mentioned how incredible it is in my post yesterday.  Anyway, I’ve been bringing the sweet elixer across the ocean every time I’d make a trip, and Iain’s parents have been traipsing across with some for me when they come too.  I’ve learned how to ration it quite well, and I can almost make it six months on one bottle.  That’s pretty impressive considering how quickly I went through the stuff when I lived over there and had it readily available.  I have found it at IKEA, but honestly it’s nothing like the British stuff.

Imagine my joy when I found that elderflower grows wild all over the place around here.  This summer got busy and we missed the flowers, but in my desperation to obtain more of that heady sweet syrup, I asked Iain if we could go on a day trip to somewhere that elderflower season is a little later than down here in Athens.  I had a hunch I’d find some elderflowers where I’d seen elderberries a year ago, so we packed up the car and a picnic lunch and headed to the mountains, up to Black Rock Mountain.  After our lunch we went and hiked around Black Rock Lake.  See, elderflower likes sunny damp areas, and can be found on pond and lake banks and in damp ditches.  We began walking around and, there, high above my head with the sun shining bright through its delicate white flowers, was my first elderflower head.  It felt like heaven had opened on me, my first real foraging experiment combined with the anticipation of sweet elderflower cordial.

While we hiked around the lake, gathering heads as I found them, when we began to hear thunder off in the distance.  No big deal, I thought, it sounded real far off.  Then, suddenly, it was upon us, pounding with rain, cracks of lightning so close my hair was standing on end, huge booms of thunder that made you jump a foot down the trail.  And so I gave up the blessed flower hunt and we high tailed it back to the car.  Only thing was we’d hiked well in and we’re a ways out from the car.  The dogs were definitely not impressed, as the deciduous tree life was not offering much shelter.  And then, when it couldn’t get worse, as we were soaked to the bone running through the woods, it started hailing.  Not too big, pea sized or so.  However, my tank top was not offering much cover, and my shoulders and neck were being pelted with icy hail.

And that’s how much I love elderflower cordial.  Through the wind and rain, lightning and thunder, even hail.  Now for the cordial: (I used a recipe from River Cottage in the UK, you can check out their Preserves book here.)

  • 25 elderflower heads (in good shape, with nice fresh white flowers)
  • finely grated zest of 3 lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional – this is to help it keep longer)

Inspect flower heads carefully and remove insects (I’ve heard that placing them flower down on a black trash bag out in the sun makes all the creepy crawlies scatter).  Put bug-free flower heads in a large bowl with the lemon and orange zest.  Boil 1.5 liters of water and pour over the flowers and zest in the bowl.  Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan.  Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice, and the citric acid.  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 sterilized bottles.  Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilized screw tops or corks.

And there you have it.  It’s supposed to be lighter in color, I might have done something wrong… I mean I was foraging the flowers in a darn thunderstorm so I didn’t have time to be picky.  There is a high chance some flowers of questionable freshness made it into the mix.  It tastes ok, not perfect, but an honorable first attempt.  We mix elderflower cordial with diet Sprite for a nice refreshing soda.  It’s also great in gin and tonics.

On another preserving related note, Wednesday morning we’re going raspberry picking and are going to come home and make raspberry jam, raspberry syrup, and raspberry vinegar (a yummy salad dressing!).  We’re going out to farm near here that has blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.  If you’d like to join us in preserving the raspberry harvest, anyone is more than welcome, just let us know.

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