Summer is here in Cornwall, there is no doubt, even the sea, at long last is starting to warm up (relative, of course!). Because of our slow start to spring in the UK, many plants are still behind. I saw May (Hawthorn) flower in June, and now, in July, the elderflowers are looking perfect to pick - a normal occurrence in June.
So, isn't it great that there is still time to make cordial, sorbet, ice cream, sweet bread, champagne & enjoy the medicinal properties & sweet scent of these hedgerow plants!
Before I begin, a word of warning. Elder (Sambucus nigra) has umbel-like clusters of flowers, similar to that of the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family. To avoid fatal mistakes with deadly plants within this family, you must be 100% sure that you are picking the correct plant. This blog is focusing on the recipe, not on the identification, always check with an expert, so you can continue to enjoy foraging for food!
Also, a word for the plant... If you pick all the flowers there will be no elderberries later in the year - which would be very sad, for us and the birds. Bare this in mind & never pick more than 25% of flowers of a single plant.
ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL RECIPE
This recipe needs some pre-planning - a bucket, clean screw-top bottles, lemon squeezer, a funnel and a seive/muslin cloth is needed. You can alter the measurements depending on how many elderflower heads you pick
25 elderflower heads (flowers left on stalks)
3 unwaxed lemons
1 lb unrefined sugar
2-3 pints/1.5 litres boiling water
3ooml warm water
2-3oz citric acid (if you’re going to store the cordial for a while)
Ideally pick the flowers in full sun. Fork the flowers off the stalks (the stalks are toxic), putting flowers aside & discarding the rest. Place sugar in a pan and pour boiling water over, stirring until dissolved. Place the elderflowers (check to remove bugs) in a clean bucket and pour hot sugar mixture over it. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the bucket, then grate the lemon zest and add this too. Stir, cover, and leave for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture through a sieve, or preferably a fine muslin cloth, and funnel into clean bottles, or dilute and serve immediately!
For Elder Flower Sorbet
Follow all the instructions above, omitting the citric acid and dilute with two-thirds water and beat in one whipped egg white. Use an ice cream maker or get ready for these next steps... Freeze the cordial in a sturdy tupperware (plastic container with a lid) for 2-4 hours. Remove & mash up with a fork or in a food blender. Repeat at least once more.
Serve on its own or with a variety of other desserts, particularly good with sponge cakes.