Friday, 10 June 2011

Off-Grid Making: Elderflower Cordial

Recently I have been very much inspired by Helen's blog 'I know a bank where the wild thyme grows'. She has, in very short space of time, managed to create a bounty of delicious sounding treats from wild plants. I was particularly taken by the idea of Boater's Elderflower Cordial, as she suggests that making elderflower cordial is best carried out on a boat:

"I have to say that I think cooking with elderflowers and boating were made for each other. Inside a house, one has the laborious task of picking over each flower head to remove insects – of which I found masses. On board, one can simply tap the heads over the side of the boat the shake the creatures loose. Marvellous. 
There were times when combining the boiling, the bottling and the labelling with locking was tricky, even a tad precarious. But I still say it beats doing it in a house every time."

Thus spurred on, I began noticing the abundance of elderflowers lining the river Cam whilst out rowing and wanted to have a go. And then, when we went out to Clayhithe to avoid the Strawberry Fair, we moored up right next to a tree covered in the delicate flowers. A sign, I thought, that I really ought to make some. So I set about gathering the ingredients. The most troublesome was the citric acid, difficult to get hold of since it is used by drug addicts to cut other more illegal white powders. But I eventually tracked some down in an Asian shop on Mill Road, who sold it to me once they were happy that I wasn't going to use it for nefarious purposes!

On Saturday, I set about collecting the elderflower heads and then left them to infuse in boiling water with a whole load of citrus peel in a saucepan on the roof. The smell was wonderful! The next morning I strained the liquid through two layers of muslin sheets lining a colander, added the juice of three lemons and an orange, the citric acid, and a kilo of sugar and stirred them over a low heat for a few minutes until all the sugar was dissolved.

Bottling the syrup was quite fun, if sticky! I had washed out all the bottles and lids in Milton's to sterilise them, and for good measure, had put the heat proof glass ones in the oven on a low heat for half an hour. Using a funnel I poured the syrup in while the bottles were still hot. I ended up with quite a few bottles! But they make good presents, and I sent one to James' mum and have also got one for my mum when she visits tomorrow.

I have also discovered that elderflower cordial makes the most delicious summer cocktails: with gin and tonic, or Helen's suggestion of white rum, mint and sparkling water. Or white wine, soda water, cucumber and mint...

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1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you made it! Your bottle looks lovely :) I've just made another batch at home in the house and I stand by my 'it's best made on a boat' comments - I had insects all over the place - yuck!

    Sterilising the bottles can be done by just boiling them for 20mins if that helps? If you want to keep the cordial out of the fridge you can extend its shelf life by up to a year by boiling it again in a water bath. You need a deep/tall pan, one that is taller than your bottles. Line its base with a folded tea towel, piece of newpaper or trivet. Put your bottles in with the lid loosely tightened - they need to have space for the steam to escape. Fill the pan with water to within an inch of the top of the bottle. Bring the the boil and boil for 20-30 mins. Remove from heat and tighten lids while still hot to create seal.