from one generation to the next
My daughter planted an elderflower in her garden late spring of 2015 hopeful of having a huge flush of the delicately scented flower heads with which to make cordial. Not much happened for close to 12 months then it was if the little bush suddenly felt at home and decided to grow. Now Leah has more elderflowers than she can use.
The only experience I have with the flavour of elderflower is drinking the cordial that’s sold by Ikea and that alone misled me into thinking it preferred to grow in a cooler climate so I was very surprised when I was offered a bag of freshly cut blooms. I’ve since read it’s very adaptable to Australian conditions.
Diana Henry has a recipe for elderflower cordial in her marvellous book about preserving called “Smoke, Sugar, Salt.” She offers some sage advice about picking the blooms when dry, then wasting no time before processing the flowers as the flavour will deteriorate into an unpalatable pungency if they are stored for even a short time.
My first batch made to Henry’s recipe, quartered, was pleasant, although it was more lemon than elderflower in flavour. My flower heads were on the smallish size.
When Leah offered me more flowers I jumped at the chance to try again. Even though these heads were bigger I increased the ratio of elderflower to sugar syrup and citrus. After bottling, this batch is much more assertive.
This is a refreshing drink made 1 part cordial over ice, topped with 10 parts soda water.
8 large heads of freshly opened elderflowers
250g castor sugar
18g citric acid
Shake the flower heads to dislodge any bugs then snip the small bunches away from the thick stems. Discard the stems.
Put the flowers into a bowl.
Use a vegetable peeler to take the zest off the lemon in long wide strips then slice the fruit thickly.
Add the lemon to the bowl with the flowers.
Put the water and sugar together in a small pot. Bring the pot to the boil stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the citric acid and stir to dissolve.
Pour the hot syrup over the elderflowers, pushing the flowers into the syrup to submerge them. After a few minutes they will collapse.
Cover the bowl and set the syrup aside to infuse for 24 hours.
The next day strain the syrup through a fine sieve then pour it into a sterilised bottle and store in the fridge.