May Day, Foraging and a Prelude to Summer – Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial

Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial

May Day, Foraging and a Prelude to Summer

~ Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial ~

1900's May Day - Dancing around the May Pole

1900′s May Day – Dancing around the May Pole

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.

Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

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!

Prelude to Summer - Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

Prelude to Summer – Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

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!

Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial  An old recipe - 100 years old. This summer cordial is made with Elderflowers.........once made it can be mixed with sparkling wine, mineral water, lemonade or added to cooking for desserts.

Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial An old recipe – 100 years old. This summer cordial is made with Elderflowers………once made it can be mixed with sparkling wine, mineral water, lemonade or added to cooking for desserts.

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

Tea Time Treats

Tea Time Treats

Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial

Serves 1 litre
Prep time 96 hours
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Beverage, Condiment, Dessert, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion Barbecue, Birthday Party, Casual Party, Formal Party
Region British
By author Karen S Burns-Booth
The English summer is thought to start when the elder blossoms end and the berries ripen. The citrus aroma floating down country lanes also heralds a bountiful harvest for the forager and home-brewer. Elderflower cordial costs more as the bottles get smarter and it’s seen as a luxury, which seems ludicrous to me, as I know that you can make it for next to nothing! 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 once they’re infused, the heady scent is delicious.Choose umbels free of discolouring and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin. Folklore: * One name for it is the Judas Tree, as it was thought to be the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself from * To fell a tree without suitable protection could free a spirit called the Elder Mother to take her revenge * The elderflower was said to be a protection against witches, and a knotted twig kept in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism * Elderflowers were apparently never struck by lightning, and a cross of elder fastened above stables would protect the animals from evil Medicinal benefits * Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C * 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 swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent. The foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds prevent attack by aphids and cater-pillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midges * Medical herbalist Christine Houghton says a daily elderflower infusion, made with fresh flowers, is helpful in preventing hay fever"

Ingredients

  • 15 large elderberry flower heads, shaken to get rid of dust and insects and fertiliser free ( (umbels))
  • 900g white sugar
  • 2 lemons, wiped clean and thinly sliced
  • 40g citric acid
  • 500ml boiling water

Note

Elderflower cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats............lemonade, sorbet, mousses, jelly, desserts, beverages, salad dressings, 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 once they’re infused, the heady scent is delicious. Choose umbels free of discolouring and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin.

Directions

Step 1 Place the freshly picked elderflower umbels (heads) in a large heatproof bowl or pan (that can be covered or has a lid). Add the sliced lemons. Then add the sugar.
Step 2 Pour the boiling water over and add the citric acid - stir all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 3 Make sure the lemon slices and most of the elderflower heads are under the sugar water. Cover and leave in a cool place for 4 days.
Step 4 Every day, remove the lid and stir the mixture - pressing the lemon slices gently to extract the juice.
You should be able to smell the beautiful floral fragrance of the elderflowers after only one day -- if after 4 days you feel there is not enough "floral" flavour to the cordial, leave for a further day.Remember, that this will be diluted to drink or added to other ingredients, so it should be as strong as possible in smell and flavour!
Step 5 When you are ready to bottle the cordial, strain through a non-metallic FINE sieve (lined with muslin if necessary - if the sieve is not fine enough) into a large pouring jug or bowl.
Step 6 Then pour the cordial into clean and sterile bottles. Seal the bottles and store the cordial in a cool, dark, dry place. This cordial is ready to use/drink now, and it will keep for a very long time if stored in the right conditions. (I have some from 4 years ago and it is still as fragrant and floral as the day I made it!)
Step 7 NB: Citric acid can be found in chemists or pharmacists, or in special brewing and wine-making shops/departments. If you cannot source citric acid, use an extra lemon instead.
Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial  An old recipe - 100 years old. This summer cordial is made with Elderflowers.........once made it can be mixed with sparkling wine, mineral water, lemonade or added to cooking for desserts.

Old Fashioned Elderflower Cordial An old recipe – 100 years old. This summer cordial is made with Elderflowers………once made it can be mixed with sparkling wine, mineral water, lemonade or added to cooking for desserts.

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 £30 of Fresh Fish delivered to your door courtesy of Delish Fish
Win one of FIVE edith and bob Great British Pudding Tea Towels and Matching Prints supporting Breast Cancer Care and British Berries
Win a Family ticket for four to the Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park with Sainsbury’s

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!

Comments

  1. Andrea Smith says

    Citric Acid is no longer available at the chemist/pharmacist due to a change in the law a couple of years ago. I now buy mine in a health food shop. Definately make this though, it’s divine and lovely if you add a small shot to a Gin & Tonic!

    • says

      I was able to buy mine in the local health food shop, but had to tell the what I was using it for! I LOVE a shot with a G and T too!

  2. says

    god this is terrible!… on one hand it’s lovely to see such warm sunshiny pictures… and I adore Elderflower cordial by the way… but on the other hand it is SO horrid here at the moment (and due to stay bad) that I can’t stand the thought of all this gloomy weather and those pictures just remind me what we should be having now!… boo hoo!

  3. says

    I know Dom! I was torn between posting a casserole recipe or this lovely summery recipe…..but I refuse to be worn down by rain and cold, so decided to inject a little sunshine into my blog today! It is DIRE here today though….very depressing! THANKS darlink! Karen

  4. says

    Just beautiful. Putting me in the mood for collecting some of these gorgeous flower heads. I cannot wait to be drinking some of this in the garden on a summer’s day! We also have an elderberry tree in the garden and need to know what to do with them too if you have any ideas?!!

    • says

      Ah, I DO have some elderberry recipes too…..quite a few, I will give you a shout when I post them Laura! THANKS so much for your lovely comments! :-)

  5. says

    Maybe I have a rogue chemist but after striking out all over the place my local independent pharmacy ordered some up for me once I told them what I was using it for. In a reassuringly old-fashioned box – so cute! We adore homemade cordials and elderflower is a favourite. And how wonderful to have a 100 year-old recipe to go by. I like to use a splash to perk up not-quite-flavourful-enough fruit and it is a key ingredient in an oatmeal and lemon cake that we like.

    • says

      I must have a rogue chemist too, as I HAVE bought citric acid from a small chemist’s shop nearby, having been questioned about why I wanted to buy it! I am also a lover of fruit and flower cordials, and elderflower is one of my favourites!

  6. says

    This is on my list too – I keep seeing so many bakes with it in. Sadly though I am not sure where to locate my nearest elderflower bush I can happily chop heads from! They don’t have that as a function on google maps and gps sadly! SO I think I will have to have a drive around when it is not raining!

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