May Day, Foraging and a Prelude to Summer
~ Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial ~
The first of May is a special day in my family, it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday and it is the prelude to a month of many family birthdays and anniversary celebrations, of which one is mine. It’s also a wonderful day of merriment and flowers……a day to dance and have fun. I know the weather in the UK is not very summery at present, and I am sure that if you were planning on dancing around a May Pole you might have a very soggy time of it, but nevertheless, I am still going to celebrate May Day in some way, and I think one of the nicest ways is to share a BEAUTIFUL May recipe with you, my Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial; this family recipe is based on a recipe that is 100 years old, made with foraged elderflowers that were collected from quiet country lanes, as well as from the bottom of my garden.
Who can resist an English country lane, (when it’s not wet of course) where blackbirds trill and swallows swoop in between hedges, where frothy white flowers hang heavy, ready to be picked and preserved into this most wonderful of summer beverages. The English summer is thought to start when the elderflower blossoms end and the elderberries ripen; with a heady floral aroma floating down country lanes, May indeed heralds a bountiful harvest for the forager and home-brewer as soon as these flowers are in bloom. Elderflower cordial seems to cost more and more as the bottles get trendier and more “Up-Market” and “Artisanal” and it’s seen as a luxury nowadays, which seems ludicrous to me as I know that you can make it for next to nothing, and all it takes is a little time and preparation, and the result is a summer lane in a bottle!
Elderflower cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats………...lemonade, sorbet, mousses, jelly, desserts, beverages, glazes etc. It is very easy to make, although you need to plan ahead as the flowers need to be steeped in the sugar mixture for four days. The flowers taste best picked early on a dry, hot day, and speed is crucial: they should be used straight after picking. The cream-coloured heads (or umbels) are tastier than the white, and don’t worry if they smell unappetising at first, the heady scent does become delicious later on I promise you. Choose umbels free of discolouration and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin. Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C; and in A Modern Herbal of 1931, Mrs Grieves recommends an elderflower infusion, taken hot before bed, as a remedy for colds and throat trouble. Mrs Grieves also swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent. She says to place the foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds to prevent attacks by aphids and caterpillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midgies too, now that sounds very handy!
I have called this post a prelude to summer, as summer does not officially start until the beginning of June, but with a jug of this refreshing cordial served at the tea time table, I can just glimpse hot days, buzzing bees, the smell of newly cut hay, strawberries and cream, fairs and fetes, jam and scones, the sound of leather on willow and many other summery images and smells on the distant summery horizon…….and as the Romans celebrated the Festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer and was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd, it’s definitely the beginning of summer for me! May’s theme in Tea Time Treats is Flowers and Floral Flavours, so, I am entering this into the Tea Time Treat’s challenge for May; a cup of tea may be de rigueur, but this makes a refreshing alternative! I hope you find some elderflowers nearby so you can make this delightful beverage……see you later with some more Scottish fish and vegetable recipes! Karen
Don’t forget I have THREE exciting and LOVELY Contests and Giveaways running at present – so DO enter them with a chance to wins some LOVELY prizes:
Win one of FIVE edith and bob Great British Pudding Tea Towels and Matching Prints supporting Breast Cancer Care and British Berries
I have just discovered a new blog challenge run by Linzi over at Lancashire Food,
for elderflower recipes, so I am also adding this recipe to her link up!