The elder bushes are in flower – so now is the moment to steep them in sugar syrup to make your own luscious elderflower cordial. This is a recipe handed down through generations of my family and uses brown sugar, hence the yellowy colour. The citric acid helps to preserve it (and gives a lovely tang), but if you are planning to use the cordial quickly and can store it in the fridge, then you could substitute the citric acid for the juice of 4 lemons.
Elderflower heads are best sourced on a dry morning, from a site away from roads. Simply snip them off the bush using scissors. You want ones that aren’t covered in blackfly (though a few bugs are inevitable and will be filtered off later) and don’t lose their little flowerlets when you shake them. Ideally, you want large heads, about the size of a side plate. Remove the thickest green stalks before moving onto the next stage, below.
Makes about 2.5litres
1kg granulated sugar
1 kg Demerara sugar
1litre boiling water
80g citric acid
2 lemons, washed and sliced
20 large elderflower heads
In a large pan, stir together the sugar and boiling water over a medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (don't let the sugar burn). Add the citric acid. Once that is also dissolved, take the pan off the heat.
Stir in the sliced lemons and elderflower heads. Place a lid on top and leave for a couple of days.
Strain through a piece of muslin placed in a sieve and decant into sterilised bottles with tight lids. The cordial should keep for a few months in a cool dark place.
Dilute the cordial to taste - delicious served with some chopped fresh mint.