Homemade elderflower cordial is one of my favourite things and is very easy. Some years I am just so busy at the right time that I miss the window when you can do it and I always kick myself. That is the thing about seasonality: miss it and it's gone until next year. You might have missed it for this year if you live in the South East of the UK after the very hot week or so we have had but here in North Wales and for other readers in the North and West of the country you can still find flowers which are just right.
Equipment is easy. You will need:
a large bowl for the mixture to steep in
3 empty wine bottles (always an easy one in this house). They can be sterilised by washing in the dishwasher or spending ten minutes in a low oven.
a large pan
a bowl and a sieve to go over it
some muslin to line the sieve like this. If you don't have muslin just use your finest sieve but the liquid won't be quite as clear
a jug to pour the liquid into the bottles
a funnel like this one makes this much easier but if you have a steady hand you can manage without one
You can buy preserving equipment from a variety of places. I tend to use Lakeland because they are quick and efficient and great at putting things right if necessary.
about thirty elderflowers
Juice and zest of three lemons
1 kg sugar
1.5 litres of water
about 25g of citric acid (optional)
Our local pharmacy stocks citric acid. It helps the cordial to keep for longer but you can make a great cordial without it and just drink it more quickly!
You can see elderflowers all over the place if you live in country. The slightly scraggy looking trees grow in hedgerows and in the edges of fields. In towns they often colonise wasteland or can be found in the less cultivated edges of parks and on canalsides. They have a distinctive scent which affects people very differently. Some people hate it and find it smells of catpiss. Some love it and feel it smells of summer. Even if you don't like the scent of the flowers the cordial has a different scent and is sweetly fragrant.
Pick about thirty flower heads when the flowers are just open. As the blossom goes over the tiny flowers turn brown and are no longer any good for cordial. Give each flower a good shake as you put it in your bowl or basket. Insects and pollinators love elderflowers so you need to let them get away.
Put the elderflowers in a large bowl with the zest of the lemons.
In a large pan, add the sugar to the water and dissolve the sugar over a low heat until you have a syrup. Increase the heat and bring the liquid to a near boil. There isn't any great science in this. It needs to be hot but not boiling that's all. Add the lemon juice and the citric acid if using and stir well. Leave it for a few minutes to cool slightly.
Pour the liquid over the flowers and leave it to infuse. I have done this for as little as ten minutes and still got a cordial full of flavour. Half an hour is better.
Strain the liquid through the muslin covered sieve into another bowl. Use a jug and a funnel if you have one to fill the bottles.
Label, dilute and drink. It tastes of summer to me. A dash added to long gin and tonic with a lot of ice is also the perfect drink for a summer evening.