A mass of white flowers have emerged, filling the air with their fragrant perfume.
I’m a fan of seasonal produce and I like to make the most of ingredients that are in abundance and available on our my doorstep.
Personally, I think elderflowers epitomise the smell, flavour and taste of summer. They make the best summer cordial and can also be used as an ingredient in dishes both sweet and savoury.
It’s all well and good buying ready-made cordial, but it’s not a patch on making it yourself. The flavour of homemade cordial is more intense and authentic. Nothing else comes close. It also tastes better in the knowledge that you know the exact tree the flowers came from and exactly what went into that bottle of deliciousness sat in your fridge.
Of course, when elderflowers are in abundance, there’s a natural inclination to make plenty of cordial and bottle it for coming months. That helps to preserve the taste of summer for the autumn. It’s a rare treat to be able to open a bottle of cordial made months earlier: it’s evocative of a different season. It will inject a bit of sunshine into your day, whatever the season you open the bottle.
It’s easy to make your own elderflower cordial by following a few tips. When you’re picking elderflowers, make sure you avoid ones that are at a low level. Also make sure you avoid elderflowers that are growing along busy roadsides or ones growing in heavily-polluted areas.
It may be an old wives’ tale, but it’s one that I subscribe to: always pick elderflowers when it’s sunny. I’m not sure why, but they always seem to have more flavour. Always take a little extra time to make sure you don’t take off too much of the branch. You are only picking the flower and don’t want to spoil the tree – or give yourself unnecessary work to do when you get back to your kitchen by re-picking the flowers from the stalks and branches.
Once you have the flowers, making the cordial is simple. Just make a sugar syrup, using equal parts water and sugar. Bring it to the boil, then throw the flowers in, remove the pan from the heat and leave them to infuse. Pass the liquid through a muslin cloth and bottle it. A lot of recipes call for tartaric or citric acid, but you don’t need any of that. Once you’ve made your cordial, it’s perfect for mixing with sparkling water, soda water or lemonade. It can also be used in desserts or drizzled over ice cream.