The countryside was abloom with magnificent creamy flat-topped sprays last month. The sweetly scented flower of the Sambucus Nigra or Elderflower had arrived.
Their heady sweet scent permeated country lanes, roadsides, graveyards, parks and gardens and these sprays (umbels), containing hundreds of tiny flowers, have more uses than any other single species of blossom.
The delicate flavoured flowers with the aroma of Muscat grapes turn up in wines, cordials, sorbets, jams, deserts and sauces.
Elderflowers bloom for about three/four weeks and are not only valued for their culinary use, but also prized for their medicinal qualities. Elderflower extract is used in a wide variety of vitamins and tonics, in skin ointments and eye lotions. Elderflowers are also rich in Vitamin A, B and are used for the treatment of colds, flus and hayfever.
Dr Doolittle used a River Cottage recipe to make a delicious Elderflower cordial. He found that this recipe had a lot less sugar than all the other recipes.
About 25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1 head tsp citric acid (optional)
Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.
Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.
The first night we tried it with sparkling water, which was nice…. The second night we tried it with sparkling wine and it was gorgeous!
The Glen House garden is truely amazing, it never fails to inspire me. To share the love, I’m bringing a bottle of cordial to Angie’s for the Fiesta Friday party at the novice gardener.