By Mags Hall
Since discovering the huge tree overhanging my front door is in fact an Elder, I have become obsessed with this taste of summer. Light, delicate flowers in early summer, followed by rich, intense berries later in the year, this is a tree that keeps on giving. Have a read of this great blog from our good friend Mark Williams for more on foraging elderflowers and other wild delights.
The flowers on my tree are not quite out yet (I’m checking daily, with heady anticipation) but I found a few freshly opened sprigs dangling above the chicken run at my parents’ house this weekend. It was a precarious mission to reach them, but I managed. There weren’t quite enough to make a straight forward cordial, so I adapted this recipe from HFW in this weekend’s Guardian instead.
10 – 15 sprigs of elderflower
Large bunch mint (approx 30gs)
Large bunch lemon balm (approx 30gs too)
5 lemons – zest and juice
750g granulated sugar
Wash the mint and lemon balm and tear it up, stalks and all, placing in a large mixing bowl. Check over the elderflowers for any bugs and beasties and add to the bowl too (don’t wash these – you’ll loose all the fragrant pollen), along with the lemon zest. Pour over a litre of boiling water, cover with a clean tea towel and leave over night to infuse.
The next day, strain the liquid through a fine sieve or muslin jelly bag into a large pan, squeezing all the botanicals to get every drop of flavour out. Squeeze the juice of the 5 lemons through the sieve too, then add the sugar. Heat gently, stirring often to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and boil for two minutes.
Sterilise some bottles, either by running through a dishwasher on the hottest cycle, or placing in a large pan of water and bringing to the boil. I have a stash of German style flip top beer bottles I have been hoarding since Christmas for this, but you could also use screw-top wine bottles. Carefully pour your hot cordial into hot bottles, seal right away and leave to cool. These will keep happily for six weeks in a cool place.
Enjoy simply diluted with water and plenty of ice, a slice of lemon, and a spring of fresh mint. Or mix with champagne, if you’re feeling fancy. However, my preference is a cocktail made with 1 part gin, 1 part cordial, fresh mint, and topped up with soda water – summer in a glass!