Art and the Elderflowers

Art discovered shop bought elderflower cordial a couple of years ago and has been a fan ever since, he’s especially fond of apple and elderflower juice. He was a bit surprised to hear he could make some himself and he was determined to try and make some himself this year.   We live in an area that has elders growing all around, and this year the trees are as much white as green, so laden are they with blossom, so he was very excited to realise that it was going to be very easy to gather the ingredients.

First comes the blossom – you want nice fresh blossom, as soon after it comes out of the round white flower buds as you can.  Avoid any heads showing brown bits and overblown blossom heads as these are more bitter. Elders have a very, very disctinctive smell, not unpleasant per se but Art found it a bit strong.  Tuathal ended up with a hayfever attack and has declared elderflower everywhere the enemy.  He went to hide in the car, I could hear the poor thing on a marathon sneezing session in the hot car with all the windows rolled up tight on one of the hottest days so far this year.  I decided we better go for a small batch on this trip.

ingredientsWe gave each flower head a bit of a shake just to evict any critters before gathering them in an open crate.  When we got them home I gave them a dip in some clean water, to dislodge the *really persistent* critters.  There was only one and  it toddled off as fast as its many legs could carry it after Art rescued it.   We consulted a few websites and decided that old folk recipes may have used honey and modern ones or aristocratic ones white sugar, we compromised and went with a mixture of both.

DSCF3198The idea is to make a concentrate that you then dilute with whatever drink you wish, so there was a surprisingly small amount of water.  We used a litre of boiling water and added the honey, (about 250g) which did that pleasing layered thing so useful for impromptu science lessons.

DSCF3200Next stage was preparing the lemons, Art got cracking on zesting both lemons as I made sure the honey and a cup and a half of sugar dissolved fully in the cooling water.  When the zest was sorted and added we chopped the lemons into large slices and floated them in too.  Art wasn’t too sure about the strong smell of honey, but kept coming back for little tastes of the mixture all the same.  Next we broke the elderflower heads into smaller branches, we probably didn’t need to, but it was fun.  The little blossoms are much cuter than I’d normally pay attention to.

DSCF3204I rather liked the smell at this stage and Art really enjoyed the mulching process of getting everything well and truly soaked and stewing nicely.  We covered the bowl and left it for two days.

Two days later Art was impatient to give it a go.  We had left it completely alone and I was curious to see what the mulch would look and smell like.  It smells rather pleasant, the kitchen has a light smell even now as I type this up.

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This is after the first straining.  We had to strain it again through a fine fabric next, I was glad to see there were no little beasties that made it through the early stages.

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I think Art especially liked this part, and was even patient as it strained through very slowly indeed. What we got was quite a bit of concentrated cordial that we tried diluting with water and mixing with apple juice and have decided is quite delicious.

20140620-162651.jpgThe concentrate itself is perhaps a little unfortunately coloured, especially because of the honey.  I’m glad I didn’t add more sugar, I find it just right sweetness wise.    This is just a sample size.  To store it you need to sterilise the storage bottle and keep it tightly closed and store in a dark place.  I am told it also freezes well which I’m thinking of doing with some of this.

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