I have been whipping down the country lanes of late, keeping my eyes peeled for the frothy blooms of the elder. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what they looked like so when @wlswoman, aka my best friend’s mum and cordial connoiseur, offered to take me picking with her this morning I jumped at the chance.
This woman knows her scrumping spots and within 5 mins of my front door we were at our first foraging site.
The key is to go on a sunny day and get the sprays of delicate creamy flowers when they are in full bloom for optimum fragrance and sweetness. Don’t pick any if there is a sign of brown, they will turn your whole batch bitter. Really there are only another few weeks left of the season.
I haven’t been foraging since a rather successful scrumping session in Marks & Spencers’ orchards in the Dordogne aged 12 (I figured they wouldn’t miss a golden delicious – or 6).
Although shod in completely inadequate footwear (handmade Moroccan slippers) we managed to scale the fence and pick the biggest blooms, for 1.5 litres of cordial you’re looking for 20 or so large flowerheads.
We went for a little wander in the quiet beech wood
It is such a simple process, you’re basically making a sugar syrup and infusing it with the lemon and elderflower. So…
Meanwhile, thinly pare the lemons to remove the peel in wide strips. Add these to the 20 flower heads in a big bowl (there is a lot of liquid so make it the biggest mixing bowl you have). Then roughly chop the remaining lemon and chuck this in, too.
Et Voila! Leave in the bowl to infuse at room temperature, covered with a clean tea towel, for 24 hours.
I am going to decant mine into sterilised plastic milk bottles tomorrow so I can freeze it for Christmas presents (it only keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge).
I like to serve mine in a high-ball with lots of ice and a sprig of mint.