For me, a white foam of elderflower in full bloom is the first sign of real summer. It's season is so short, with a delicate fragrance that reminds me of childhood, little wonder we want to capture the scent and the moment. At this time of year I always scout the hedgerows, waiting to see the first full blossom. This year I'm going to concentrate on a few cordials, a standard Elderflower and, for the first time, Elderflower, Mint and Lemon Balm.
Here's a simple recipe to start bottling the blossom...
Pick twenty heads of elderflower, in full bloom, early in the morning. I have no idea if it makes it taste any better, but I like this tradition as it adds to the sensation that you're capturing something fleeting and special!
Examine the heads closely for dust and critters, but don't wash them as it's the pollen that gives the delicate fragrance
Place in a large bowl and cover with a litre of just boiled water
Add 300g of caster sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved
Take four lemons, trim the skin and rind and add the flesh, crushing in to the mix
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to infuse for two days, before decanting into sterilised bottles. It should last in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you can freeze it and get a hit of summer bloom in the cold watches of winter...
The cordial can be used in everything from cakes to gimlets - how do you use yours?
1 kg fresh strawberries, chopped and mashed
80 g Citric Acid
2 lemons, sliced
1 litre boiling water
1.5 kg of caster sugar
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl, bring the water to a boil and then pour onto the ingredients. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, cover and place in the fridge for three days to steep. Strain and bottle - it should keep well for up to six months and can be used as you would any syrup, in jellies, cocktails and all sorts of sweet sauces.