It is June 21st, the summer solstice and a beautiful sunny, if somewhat windy morning here in Northern Ireland. The elderflowers are in full bloom in the hedges now and are abundant along the little country road where I live and walk every day. The fresh flowers are great for a cordial. They are also lovely paired with gooseberries to make jam. Pick them just as the tiny buds are beginning to open, and some are still closed. Pick on a warm, dry day (never when wet).
Servings: About 2 litres
- About 25 elderflower heads
- zest of 2 unwaxed lemons plus their juice
- 1.5kg granulated sugar
- 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
- 1.5 litres water
- Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and rinse in cold water. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the lemon zest.
- Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the elderflower heads and lemon zest and juice. Stir in the citric acid if using. Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave in a cool place to steep overnight.
- Next day, strain the liquid through a sieve and then a jelly bag or piece of muslin. Do not push it through.
- Pour the syrup into sterilised bottles or jars, seal and store in a cool dry place. Keep refrigerated once opened.
Citric acid is a preservative, your cordial will keep better with it but it’s not essential.