Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making Elderflower Cordial

Another school year has just ended, and once again my boys were lucky to have had a bunch of wonderful teachers to guide them through. Above are the end of year appreciation gifts we handed out to them: homemade elderflower cordial, lavender bath salts and lavender rice eye masks. I posted this picture to my Facebook page, and several people asked me for a recipe for the elderflower cordial. Here it is.

You'll need:

45 Elderflower heads
1 kilo of caster sugar (about 2 1/4 lbs)
5 lemons, zested and juiced
6 tablespoons citric acid (you can easily find food grade citric acid online and in some health food stores)
2 litres of water, plus a little more to melt both the sugar and the citric acid
Optional: a handful of fresh mint leaves

Elderflower grows like crazy all around our house, so it was easy to find. Its usually in bloom in June, but this year everything has come out late, so early July was when we harvested ours. You want to harvest them when the flowers are pretty fully in bloom, and never take more than half from a tree, as birds will feed on the berries they'll produce in the fall. Share and share alike! Also, in some areas (like ours), elderflower grows profusely along the sides of roads, but ideally you want to harvest flowers that haven't been absorbing a lot of car fumes, so look a little further afield if you can.

For our batch of cordial, which made about two and a half litres of syrup, we probably used a good forty or fifty flower heads. One recipe I saw called for twenty five, but I wanted mine to be pretty concentrated.
That's a LOT of elderflower.

In the kitchen, my assistants patiently helped me to pick just the flowers off of the stems, as the stems in great enough concentration aren't healthy for consumption. We chucked them all into my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven. Add two litres of boiled water to the flowers.
Next melt your sugar and citric acid in a small bath of boiling water. When they're fully dissolved mix them together with the lemon juice, lemon zest and mint leaves (if using), and stir them all into the flower bath. Cover and let the whole thing cool down.
Set your covered mixture somewhere cool and dry (the china cupboard was my spot), undisturbed, for two to four days (mine sat for four). Above is how it looked on day three. I gave it a little stir and tasted it, and decided to leave it for a fourth day.
After four days, I was ready to bottle. I found some pretty half litre bottles with stoppers at my local kitchen supply store, and had enough cordial to fill three, plus a one litre bottle to keep for ourselves.
You can strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, and use a sterilized funnel to pour it into your (sterilized) bottles.

You can see how concentrated my mixture was from the deep yellow color; most elderflower cordial is a lot paler in hue than this. My cordial tastes good at a ratio of 1 part syrup to four parts water. Because this only lasts about a month, I didn't make too much. Next time, though, I'll make more, and freeze it into ice cubes which I'd then store in freezer bags. That way I could just thaw what I wanted in advance, and have it to drink year round. Yum!