Saturday, 7 May 2011

Elderflower Cordial

It may seem that I'm a little obsessed with flowers just now but both the acacia and elder are blooming at just about the same time and both are such important flowers in nature as they are in my kitchen.
Elderflower cordial is an essential ingredient for me. I use it in crumbles, jellies, sorbets and iced with sparkling water on a blistering, hot august afternoon. The elderflower goes so well with all those tart fruit; rhubarb and gooseberry to name just two. Their harsh astringency is scented and softened by the elderflower and with sugar to sweeten - its unbeatable.
Right now the their white flowers are hanging thickly from the trees and the air is filled with wafts of their musky, lemon, meadow scent.

When in Paris the other day, I went looking for Elderflower essential oil or some sort of elderflower natural fragrance but it just doesn't exist. The day I begin using perfume is the day someone smart finds a way of extracting its essence.  
Elder trees grow like dandelions in this part of the countryside but in urban areas, they are just as abundant and accessible in parks and wasteland and are worth a dawn raid. In Paris, I see them in every park, on the motorways leading into Paris, and even at the airport. I'm sure its not so great to use the carbon monoxide flavoured variety, but there must be so many places where this tree grows safely.
I mentioned dawn raid, as apparently the best moment to collect the flowers is 2 hours after sunrise as they are then at their most fragrant. 
The next thing you need, is a tall, strong man with a fine long stick, a pair of scissors and a basket. The mans shoulders should be broad and muscular and will help you reach the most exposed blossoms high up in the upper branches. The stick will help steady the man or pull the blossoms closer and then clip clip and into the basket.

The ideal flower heads are those that are freshly opened, not spent - look for those "sprays" in which a few of the tiny flowers are still in bud.

Elderflower Cordial

Makes 2.5 litres

1.2kg cane sugar
1.8 litres water
30 large elderflower heads
50g citric acid
2 sliced oranges
2 sliced lemons

Dissolve the sugar in a large saucepan of water over a moderate heat stirring all the time. Leave to cool slightly. Pick over the flower heads for any dead leaves or insects and remove as much of the thick stalk as possible (which can spoil the flavour). Put the flower heads, fruit slices and citric acid into a large bowl and pour over the syrup. Leave to infuse for 24 hours in a cool place, stirring from time to time.

Sterilise some bottles and lids by washing and rinsing them and keeping in an oven at 140° for 15 minutes. Strain the cordial through a muslin (or tea towel) lined sieve into the bottles. Seal and leave to cool. Can be kept for a fortnight in the fridge or decant into plastic bottles and freeze for later use.

(Lots of recipes suggest pouring boiling water over the blossoms but I think cooler water freshens the flavour. Citric acid can be found at the chemists. Its usually used by heroin addicts so don't mind the strange looks you may get)

No comments:

Post a Comment