At the start of lockdown in the UK, many were wondering what this meant for the summer months of the year. Would we still be stuck at home? Will we be able to travel at all? Will the pub gardens be open? While many of these (highly important) questions are still unanswered, the relaxing of lockdown restrictions means long summer days spent relaxing and picnicking with friends (socially distanced, of course) are becoming the norm once again.
For the perfect accompaniment to your picnic in the park or bottomless brunch in your garden, homemade elderflower cordial, from flower’s you have foraged, will be enough to convince everyone you have become a domestic goddess. Elderflower is usually in bloom between May – July, it’s sweet and summery scent a reminder of these early warm days.
As this crazy-corona period has meant the majority of our time is being spent at home, we have witnessed many bursts of creativity in the kitchen. Disclaimer: don’t worry if you’ve still not baked that sourdough loaf or fluffy banana bread. I’ve definitely been too scared to tackle the sourdough and I’m certain Mary Berry would be disheartened by my burnt banana bread.
While homemade elderflower cordial may sound like an impossibly niche task, it was actually surprisingly easy and fuss-free. First, you will need to collect the blooms from an elder tree. The beautifully tiny white flowers hang in sprays – left unpicked, these will transform into purple elderberries in the late summer. Choose a sunny morning to begin foraging, so the flowers are in full bloom, and try not to break any branches or pick the stalks. For further information on foraging for flowers, the Woodland Trust has put together some handy guidelines here.
I tried the following recipe by Georgina Hayden, a food writer and cook based in North London (follow her on Instagram @georgiepuddingnpie for more delicious and inspiring recipes):
- 15 heads of elderflower
- 500g caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons quality runny honey
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- Rinse the elderflower and make sure to pick off any bugs.
- Place the sugar and honey in a large saucepan with 1 litre of water. Gently bring to the boil, until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
- Finely grate in the lemon zest and add the elderflower upside down, making sure the flowers are completely submerged.
- Squeeze in the juice from one of the lemons, then slice the other and add it to the pan, too. Pop the lid on and leave to one side to infuse for 24 hours.
- When you’re ready to strain your cordial, line a fine sieve with muslin over a large bowl (if you don’t have muslin, you can use good quality kitchen towel) and pour through the cordial.
- Store in sterilised bottles or jars. (It will keep for around a month in the fridge)
N.B How to sterilise bottles or jars: choose any glass bottle or jar (a bottle with a long neck will look the most aesthetically pleasing when you bring it along to a picnic) and wash it thoroughly with warm, soapy water and rinse clean. Place the bottle or jar in the oven at a low temperature (around 160 degrees) for 10-15 minutes.
And there you have it – a refreshing and delicious homemade cordial with the sweet scent of lazy summer days. Try it with sparkling water, added to prosecco or make an elderflower gin and tonic. If you’re feeling especially indulgent (and have a cocktail mixer to hand) why not try a raspberry and elderflower martini? It’s as delicious as it sounds.
Raspberry and Elderflower Martini (Via Port and Fin)
- Your homemade elderflower cordial
- Sparkling Wines
- Lemon peel
- Frozen raspberries
Add the vodka, cordial, 3-5 frozen raspberries, lemon peel and ice to your cocktail mixer and give it a good shake. Pour into a glass. Top it off with a splash of sparkling wine and garnish with more raspberries. Yum.