The hedgerow is a source of so many delightful foods and flavours and while the most popular may be blackberries in late August, it’s the appearance of masses of frothy elderflower blooms that for me signals the start of summer and the most enjoyable gathering opportunity. What could be nicer than an early morning walk through the dewy grass to your nearest hedgerow at the end of May or beginning of June to gather these delicately scented flowers?
Snip a few blooms while the flowers are still small and closed for maximum flavour, selecting from a number of different bushes to ensure you don’t take too much from one tree (ensuring plenty of berries later in the year for birds - and who knows, you may want to come back to make Elderberry jelly/jam later in the year).
For a litre of cordial:
It’s generally recommended that you shake the flower heads to remove any bugs, rather than soak or rinse, as washing can remove some of the flavour in the pollen. However, I tend to soak mine in a bowl of water for a short while to remove all the microscopic thunder flies!
Next, add your sugar and honey to a litre of water and gently bring it to the boil to dissolve. Many recipes call for more sugar, so add more to your taste, but I prefer honey to add most of the sweetness. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and grate the zest of one lemon into the mix together with the juice of one of your lemons. Add your flower heads (blooms facing down), lemon mint and slices of the remaining lemon. Cover and leave for at least 24 hours for the flavour to infuse. Strain through muslin into your favourite sterilised bottles (e.g. straight from the dishwasher).
Enjoy you cordial mixed with sparkling water, prosecco, champagne or G&T. For an extra touch, make cordial ice cubes and mix in some of the petals for a pretty summer cocktail. It’s also really nice when added to jellies or the cake sponge of a summer trifle.
Happy hedgerow wandering!
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