Being born only a few miles from Stephen’s Green meant that any sort of ‘country lore’, for want of a better word, has come to me late in life! Turns out it’s never too late to learn
The recipes for Sloe Gin (https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/sloesall-you-need-to-know/ ) and Rhubarb Gin (https://eatingforireland.com/recipe/champagne-rhubarb-gin/ ) are good examples, but also my use of local and seasonal ingredients has hopefully encouraged you to make the most of our great range of local foods.
I’ve been making Elderflower Cordial for several years now, and a walk along the River Lagan this morning reminded me to remind you that it’s almost time to collect your Elderflowers for this year’s session! I’ve done the experimenting, so that you don’t have to, and this recipe is the business!
It was such a treat to dig out a bottle of Elderflower Cordial at Christmas time last year, so be sure to follow the freezing instruction in the NOTES if you fancy some Summery cocktails when the Summer is over!
Before you start – the most difficult bit of this recipe for me was actually sourcing the Citric Acid – I tried 3 chemist shops and a health-food store before I hit gold. So if you happen to be in your local chemist, ask if they have it, or would order it in for you. You’ll need 85g of Citric acid for the recipe below (I had to buy 2x 50 g boxes today). I’m pretty sure Citric acid doesn’t go off, so you could keep a little extra for homemade lemonade if you fancy it
This is a really easy recipe, and Elderflower Cordial is one of my favourite things (have a look at my lovely warm-weather non-alcoholic Hugo)
So, you’ll need about 20 flower-heads from a kind pal – Thanks Liz! – or just pick them yourself on your daily walk – Public parks, hedgerows or river banks are always a good source – and get cracking!
For best results, pick your Elderflowers when it’s warm and sunny – rain-soaked flowers will not have as strong a scent. So if you see the sun shining – pick your Elderflowers at about 11 or 12o’clockin the morning!
- Your largest saucepan – a stock pot that holds about 10 litres is perfect
- Sieve, +/- a colander
- Kitchen paper and a clean thin tea towel
- Long-handled wooden or other spoon
- Potato peeler
- Weighing scales
- Measuring jug
- Large bowl (to strain the cordial into)
- Glass bottles, sterilised and sealable (see NOTES)
THIS RECIPE MAKES ABOUT 4 LITRES
- 2.5 Kg of sugar (granulated or caster – doesn’t matter which)
- 85 g Citric Acid (see pic)
- 1.5 litres of cold water
- 20-25 Elder Flower heads
- 2 large unwaxed lemons
- Put the sugar and water into the pot.
- Heat it gently until the sugar dissolves, stirring every so often.
- Using the potato peeler, peel strips of the lemon zest from each lemon, then cut each one into 1cm slices.
- Fill a bowl with cold water and wash the flowers gently (I did this by holding them by the stalks and swishing them through the water) then drain in a sieve lined with kitchen paper.
- Using a sharp scissors, cut off any stalks – it’s worth mentioning here that the stalks and leaves are toxic. You only want the beautiful little white flowers; as little stalk as possible.
- When the sugar has completely dissolved (check for grains on the back of the spoon), turn up the heat and bring the solution to the boil.
- As soon as it boils, turn off the heat, add the Elder Flowers, lemons, lemon zest and citric acid, and stir it all in well.
- Cover the pot, and leave it in a cool spot to infuse for 24 hours .
- After the 24 hours (which always seems endless to me!), start off by placing the sieve over a suitable container, then add a double layer of kitchen paper and ladle the liquid through, leaving most of the flowers and lemons behind at this stage.
- When you’ve used up most of the clear liquid, line a colander with a thin tea towel, then carefully transfer the remaining contents of the pot into it.
- Allow the last of the cordial to filter through and then, if you’re like me, gather up each corner of the tea towel and give it all a really good, tight, squeeze to get every last drop out..(you did all that work – you should have all of the cordial to show for it!)
- Discard the dried-out flowers and lemons. On the Compost heap is perfect.
- Using a jug with a good pouring spout, fill up your sterilized bottles, seal and label.
- Your cordial is ready to drink now, and will keep for about 6 weeks in a dark, cool spot or fridge. I freeze a lot of mine – See NOTES – it leaves space in the fridge!
- My thanks to my school friend Janet for suggesting that I freeze some in plastic bottles for later on in the year. It works like a charm, and because of the sugar it doesn’t freeze solid, so can be used fairly quickly once it’s removed from the freezer. If you’re freezing some, make sure you don’t over-fill the bottles as the cordial will expand as it freezes.
- To sterilise your bottles, either boil them in a large saucepan, or put them through the dishwasher. Then dry them in a cool oven at 120 degrees.
- The transfer of the cordial into the bottles can be a little sticky, so may I suggest that you do as I did, and keep it all either in, or very close to, the kitchen sink! I used a damp cloth to wipe the bottles once they were sealed as well, to remove any last stickiness..
- I really enjoyed making this Elderflower Cordial, and I’ve got about 4 litres to show for my efforts. I’m putting a litre into the freezer, as Janet suggested above, for a rainy day I used two well-washed 500ml fizzy water bottles – they worked perfectly!