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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

preserving summer again...

I must confess to having a general dislike to food that is flower flavoured. Rose water has always repelled me a little, but homemade elderflower cordial is so much better than anything you can buy, and the huge tree at the back of the garden means I don't have to travel far to do my foraging at this time of year. And it makes the house smell lovely... bonus!

The flowers themselves are best picked in the sun when they are dry. Pick your elderflowers early in the morning when their scent is much stronger. Choose flowers with no trace of browning and be careful to pick your blossoms far back from any roadsides where the traffic fumes do them no favours.

The Recipe
20 heads of elderflower (about a plastic carrier bag full)
1.8 kg granulated or caster sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons
75 g citric acid

1. Shake the elderflowers to remove any dirt or small creatures, then place in a large bowl.

2. Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

3. While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest from the lemons in wide strips and put into the bowl with the flower heads. Slice the lemons and add to the bowl. Pour over the boiled syrup and stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

4. Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with (scalded) muslin (or a NEW j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles.

5. To sterilise bottles, wash the bottles & stoppers really well and put on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before adding the cordial through a funnel. Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use, or put some in the freezer.

To serve
Dilute the elderflower cordial to taste with fizzy water, and serve over ice with a slice or two of lemon, or a sprig of mint floating on top. For something a bit more fun, add it to white wine and sparkling water to make an elderflower spritzer.

Endlessly versatile in sweet and savoury dishes, try it in sorbets, or ice-creams. Elderflower cordial is also brilliant in a vinaigrette. It makes a light, summery salad all the more summery - just mix a couple of tablespoons with your choice of vinegar, a bit of mustard, olive oil and seasoning. Another great thing to do with this syrup is to use it in place of rose water in Turkish and Moroccan-style chicken and poussin recipes.

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