There is something about freshly made Elderflower Cordial which seems to symbolise the arrival of Summer. I’ve never made my own Elderflower Cordial before so decided this weekend would be an ideal time as Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and the elder trees were in full bloom. The Elderflower Season is short – late May to mid-July and they are best picked on a sunny day. The warmth of Summer sunshine gives the flowers the perfume needed for a good refreshing cordial.
I had a lovely time. I cycled off on my beautiful traditionally made English Pashley bicycle, complete with her very useful wicker basket. It was a joy to amble along the country lanes taking my time to enjoy the sunshine whilst looking for elderflowers. It is best to pick elderflowers off the beaten track away from any traffic pollution.
No-one told me that quite a few of the blooms would be too high for me to reach without a step-ladder and that often the verge in front of the flowers would be full of numerous stinging nettles! In my efforts to embrace the `quintessentially English experience’ I had worn a short floaty Summer skirt and pretty sandals. Stout walking boots and a pair of long trousers would have been more approriate! Not to be put off I persevered and came back with a basket brimming with beautiful creamy scented flowers.
Elderflowers are best picked on a sunny day when you have time to use them immediately as freshly picked flowers have the best scent. It needs to be a warm dry day as you need dry flowers. The flowers you pick need to be just opened. There is no need to worry if some of the tiny buds are still closed; these young flowers have the most scent and therefore give more flavour. Make sure there are no brown or dead flowers.
Elderflowers can be used to make a refreshing cordial which is delicious diluted with still or fizzy water or used as a flavouring in ice creams, fruit fools and many other recipes. They can also be used to make Elderflower Champagne. I decided to have a go at making both as I had picked plenty of flowers.
500g white caster sugar
500g light brown sugar
1.5 litres boiling water
20 Elderflower heads, shake to remove any insects
75g citric acid
Pour the boiling water onto the sugar in a large tupperware container or preserving pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. I chose to use a mixture of brown and white sugar for mine as an experiment. However you could stick to simply using white caster sugar. Brown sugar gives the cordial an orange colour, whilst white keeps the cordial a fresh pale yellow colour.
Leave to cool.
Add in the Elderflower heads, Citric Acid and the sliced lemons to the pan. Citric Acid can be quite hard to come by. You used to be able to buy it in any chemist shop, but due to the fact that it can be used to inject heroin, a lot of chemists are now reluctant to sell it. I tried two chemists and a Health Food Shop with no luck. My local hardware store sold me some as they sell home brewing gear. I have since seen it for sale on Amazon and even Lakeland with their home brew kit. The mixture is then left for about 5 days to brew. The aroma given off by the citrus and Elderflower mixture smells like Summer!
After 5 days strain the mixture through a muslin. I have a special stand which I bought for jam-making from Lakeland which is ideal. Mr Smiles gave me the advice that I should do this outside as he knows my cooking tends to be very messy! He was right. Although I must admit bottling up Elderflower Cordial outside on a warm Summer’s day was not a bad idea. Pour the mixture in to clean sterilised bottles. I put some in plastic bottles and froze these for future use. You can also put the cordial in an ice cube tray. Putting 1 or 2 cubes in a glass of sparkling water for a refreshing drink works well. I bottled some in Kilner Cordial Bottles.
Elderflower Cordial is meant to be refreshing, but innocuous. My cordial was definately not innocuous. The next day having photographed a nice drink of refreshing cordial the cordial started to get bubbly. It’s not mean to be fizzy! You are meant to dilute it like squash and add your own sparkling water. I had read that if the champagne gets a bit fizzy you should release the gas off gently. So I thought I’d have a go. BIG MISTAKE! My cordial gave an enormous bang and exploded all over me and all over the kitchen. I was covered in sugary drink and so were the kitchen units, the walls and the ceiling! It took a long time to clean up the mess. I think the unusual heat had caused the cordial to ferment, not helped by photographing the bottle out in the mid-day sun. So beware and carefully let out your gas in the garden!
4 litres hot water
juice and zest of 4 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
15 Elderflower heads, in full bloom
Pinch of champagne yeast
Put the hot water and sugar into a large clean container and stir until the sugar dissolves. Top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.
Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
Cover with a clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. If the brew is not beginning to gently bubble at this stage add a pinch of yeast. (now I made the mistake of leaving the mixture in a warm kitchen and I added a good generous measure of yeast as I fancied a bubbly champagne!)
Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further 4 days.
Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers. Another piece of advice – do not squeeze the bag to get out every last drop! Squeezing the bag adds unwanted sediment to the champagne.
A good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide. To avoid explosions, use strong bottles and strong seals. A really active mixture produces a lot of gas so do remember to let it off gently outside to prevent explosions! The seals on my bottles seem a bit inadequate for my gassy brew and they are still going pop unexpectedly! It is a delicious drink though!
Elderflower and Honey Ice Cream
Home-made Elderflower Cordial can be used in many different delicious recipes. Elderflower and Gooseberries work particularly well together. Watch out for my `Gorgeous Gooseberry’ Blog Post coming soon! One recipe I enjoyed making with my Cordial was Elderflower and Honey Ice Cream. I used a recipe compiled by Elaine Lemm.
I’ve never made ice cream before. This recipe uses liquid glucose which helps create a smooth ice cream and prevents crystallisation so can be made without a machine.
4oz/ 100g caster sugar
18 fl oz / 500 ml milk
3 tsp liquid glucose
3 large egg yolks
9 oz / 250 g Creme Fraiche
1/4 pint/ 150 ml whipping cream
3 tbsp Elderflower Cordial
1 tbsp runny honey
Place the sugar, milk and liquid glucose into a large saucepan and stir well. Place over a gentle heat and warm the milk through until it is giving off steam, but not boiling.
Whisk the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Continue whisking whilst slowly adding the warmed milk. Return the mixture back to the pan and gently heat. Continue stirring until the custard mixture has thickened. Do not allow the mixture to boil. If you feel it is cooking too quickly, or sticking to the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat to allow it to cool a little, lower the heat then continue cooking.
The more time you take over this part the better the custardy cream will be in the end. This part of the recipe did take a long time to thicken – maybe 20 minutes.
Strain the custard through a fine sieve and put to one side and allow to cool. Once the custard is cool ,add the creme fraiche, the whipping cream, cordial and honey and stir well. I must confess to not having enough whipping cream so I made up the difference with clotted cream!
Pour the mixture into a shallow freezer container and place in the freezer. Beat the mixture three or four times as it freezes to break up any ice crystals and to create a smooth ice cream.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer ten minutes before serving to soften a little.
What better way to spend a Summer afternoon than eating home-made ice cream and drinking a thirst quenching Elderflower Cordial or sipping home-made Elderflower Champagne in the garden?