As children, my father would take my sister and me to London every year around this time for what we lovingly referred to as “The Season.” Traditionally it was the time when the landed gentry, residing predominantly in the countryside, would make their way to London to see and be seen. Today, events such as Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Henley Royal Regatta, among others mark the period. It is no surprise that this time of year also hosts England’s best weather. As it turns out, “The Season” just happened to coincide with an annual board meeting. Either way, we were grateful for the opportunity and had a great time exploring London. Each trip culminated in a visit to friends in the countryside. There new adventures could be had: collecting the eggs; feeding the piglets; croquet; country walks; and more. A veritable outdoor wonderland for the (yet to be coined) tween set.
Indoors, other treasures awaited; winding passages; bathroom’s decorated with humorous drawings; an enormous snooker table and; the drinks cabinet. Tucked away in the sitting room was a cabinet containing, unsurprisingly, drinks for adults but, on the lower level, countless sodas, mini Cadbury’s chocolates, Salt & Vinegar chips and elderflower cordial. I had never before tasted anything like those chips, at first disgusting but soon addictive. The British have a word for it: moreish. It has nothing to do with the Moors, as I believed for many years, but, in fact, just means you want more. Then there was the elderflower cordial, added to sparkling water, served with ice in a highball glass. Drinking it I felt so grown up and, to this day, it always reminds me of that time and marks the beginning of summer.
The Elder Tree is a staple of the British countryside, in early summer the blooms dot the roads and hedgerows and by fall the berries are plentiful. The tree was seen to have magical qualities and they were often planted to ward off evil spirits, perhaps the reason for their abundance. Making the cordial is easy and requires little more than the flowers, sugar, lemons and water, and perhaps some citric acid but that is optional.
This recipes makes around 2 liters.
After inspecting for bugs put around 25 flower heads and the zest of about 4 lemons in a bowl and cover with roughly 1.5 liters of boiled water. Leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid into a saucepan through cheesecloth or something similar and add 1 kg of sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar so my product is a little darker) as well as the juice from those 4 previously zested lemons and about a tablespoon citric acid (this helps with preserving but is not a must). Heat to dissolve the sugar and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour (carefully) into sterilized bottles and seal. For a step-by-step method on sterilizing, click here. For further shelf life, you can then place the filled bottles in water at a simmer (88° C) for 20 minutes.
As usual, I have more than enough to go around, so let me know if you are interested in buying a bottle. A little goes a long way!