It was supposed to be the first cricket match of the year on Sunday, but it was raining in the morning so the pitch was too wet. However, the sun came out in the afternoon and we went off (with stepladder) to pick elderflowers, intending to make cordial later that day.
We've been trying to cut down on the amount of fruit juice we consume since I read this article in the paper some time ago. Making a cordial which is basically sugar water may seem a silly way to go about this, but hopefully once diluted it won't be as bad.
There are three good trees in the hedges round the cricket field, and they are nicely away from any roads, which makes for safer and cleaner picking. It's the same place I tend to pick blackberries from, I see it as an added bonus to being a member of the village cricket club.
The flowers themselves smell lovely, it was one of those times I really appreciate living in the countryside, helping the boy pick flowers and then chasing him through the thistles with fallen flowers stuck in his hair.
An hour later, and back home, we had a washing up bowl full which were duly shaken to remove insects and snipped to remove the biggest stalks.
I'd checked out a few recipes online, but all had citric acid in them, which, this being a spur of the moment sort of thing, I didn't have.
(Note: There is a blog post about elderflower cordial with citric acid here.)
Luckily a friend had given us the lovely Edible Wild Plants & Herbs by Pamela Michael which had a recipe for elderflower syrup, which she recommends as a drink diluted with water. You can also use it for cooking fruit in, adding 1 1/2 cups per kilo of fruit. I'll try this once the gooseberries are ripe.
See here for the elderflower cordial recipe.
£0 bowl full of elderflowers
£1.63 1750g granulated sugar
£0.40 per litre of cordial - 2p per diluted litre (4% the cost of the equivalent at ocado)
Into the preserving pan went all the flowers with enough water to cover (about 4.5 litres)
Half an hour of bringing to the boil and simmering later, and with the kitchen full of the smell of flowers, the soggy mass of flowers was strained off. I used some muslin in a sieve, as there were quite a lot of small bits of flower in the pan.
The resulting liquid was measured (3.3 litres) and 400g of sugar added for each 750ml. After bringing to the boil again I bottled it in some steralised screw top wine bottles. This should keep for several months in the fridge, and should last us through the summer.
I also put some in plastic bottles in the freezer, which should last until the autumn.
1hr picking flowers
0.5hrs Preparation of flowers
0.5 hrs simmering
0.5 hr Bottling
For an initial taste test I diluted this about 1:20 (15ml per 300ml) with water, and if anything it's was a bit sweet and tasted more of elderflowers than perhaps I'm used to with commercial cordials. It may be why many recipes include citric acid, as a bit of acidity would contrast the sweetness well.
I think I'll try to dilute it more, especially for children, as I worked out diluting it 1:20 means 1.3 teaspoons of sugar per 300ml of finished drink. This is however still much better than fizzy drinks at 8tsp per 300ml, and orange squash at 3.5tsp per 300ml. Pure orange juice contains over 5 teaspoons, although this is in naturally occurring sugars.
For a second test I reduced it to 1:30 (10ml per 300ml), and this is much more refreshing, and only has just under a teaspoon of sugar per 300ml.
I'll look forward to trying it with the Rhubarb Schnapps which is still banished to under the stairs.