The scent of elderflowers has been overwhelming this spring – perhaps more so because of the profusion of blossoms after the wet winter. Slightly cloying but unmistakeable, the nose perceives the presence of an elder in bloom long before the eye. They remind me slightly of tree-bound cauliflowers which makes me smile. Even in the rain there is something to enjoy about them when the tiny off-white flowers fall to the ground like so much mouse confetti.
I went foraging in a local park for my supply, given that I wasn’t in the countryside. I suppose if we all did this the bushes would be bare but it only takes 20 flower heads (about half the contents of a regular supermarket carrier bag) to make four litres of elderflower cordial. I chose mine carefully so that I only took a couple of flower heads from each bush, making sure that they were far enough off the ground not to have been targeted by any dogs.
I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine but it doesn’t matter which you choose, as it’s a pretty straightforward business. You just have to melt some sugar into some water by gentle boiling, making a syrup in which you then steep the flower heads and lemons for 24 hours. No cooking involved really, just a bit of heating up.
One thing I did think, is that if people were forced to make a concentrated drink like this at school, they might think twice about how much squash and juice or fizzy drinks they consume in later life. I was pretty horrified to need two-and-a-half kilos of sugar, which practically filled the large saucepan I had at the ready. Of course, this is a concentrate so you only use a tiny amount for each glass but it still makes you think.
Elderflower cordial is quite delicious and made this way, you can either freeze it or keep it in the fridge for six weeks – a reminder of spring that will last almost until the nights start drawing in again.