My summer always begins with the first glass of elderflower cordial - generally in early June - but summer’s early this year. The warm weather has encouraged the flowerheads to develop in late May, and the first open blooms are already starting to appear in the Hertfordshire hedgerows.
The children and I have been on a walk to the local park to harvest the flowerheads – only a few from each elder to leave plenty for the insects and so that the tree doesn’t suffer from overharvesting. It’s important to pick flowers away from roads and traffic fumes and to check your ID in a book if you’ve not foraged for elderflowers before. Ideally, pick on a dry day and smell the flowers before you harvest as some bushes can have a rather strong, unpleasant scent. It is best to use the flowers are soon as you get them home, although flowerheads can be frozen and used at a later date.
We return with a basketful of the fragrant creamy-white flowerheads and shake them outside to remove any insects before bringing the basket into the kitchen. I’ve stocked up on lemons and citric acid, the glass bottles are ready, so it’s time to brew the foraged flowers and fill the house with Summer fragrance.
Add water and sugar to a pan and bring to the boil.
Heat until the sugar fully dissolves and allow to cool.
Add the zest, juice and skins of the lemons to a bowl with the elderflower heads.
Pour the sugar solution into the bowl to cover the flowers and lemons.
Stir in the citric acid.
Cover and leave for a day
Strain the juice through muslin and pour into sterilised bottles.
Store bottles in the fridge once opened.
Here's some I made earlier!
Elderflower cordial supposedly stores for up to three months in a dark place, but we rarely keep ours for more than a few weeks. The kids love it after school when they’re hot and thirsty, we mix it with gin for evening cocktails and add sparkling water to create refreshing drinks for summer garden parties. Best of all, every step of the process - from collecting the flowerheads to brewing the fragrant cordial and enjoying the first glass in the garden - is a true celebration of the joys of summer.