Now that much of the countryside has been blessed with a bit of rain, our hedgerows and woodlands are positively groaning with a natural smorgasbord of goodies. The most obvious candidates for foraging are elderflowers and we’ve got a cordial recipe for you from Valentine Warner to make at home. Valentine and Pev Manners, our MD, have come up with a list of tips for picking that will ensure you end up with a delicious tipple. Of course, if you can’t face the hassle of making it yourself, just invest in some of our lovely Belvoir Elderflower Cordial – it’s made using Pev’s mother’s traditional recipe and it is a multi-award winning favourite.
Top tips for picking the best elderflowers
• Pick your elderflowers on a nice dry day, rain does them no favours when transporting them home.
• Pick your elderflowers early in the morning when their scent is much stronger.
• Older ‘turning’ elderflowers are to be avoided as they take on a rather unpleasant bleach like smell, therefore make your cordial at the beginning of the season, in late May and June.
• Don’t pick elderflowers near busy roads; it’s not so much about getting run over but rather more to do with the fumes.
• When making your cordial using boiling water will scold the flowers & will destroy a lot of the taste, therefore only heat the water to around 80° c as you would for some fine teas.
• Another fantastic recipe for elderflowers is to dip them in batter, fry them & dust in icing sugar.
Valentine Warner’s Elderflower Cordial
Belvoir is a favourite, but if you feel enthused to do some foraging here is a simple recipe. Tartaric acid is widely available in supermarkets and chemists and will not get you arrested if you buy it in large amounts.
Makes roughly 2 x 500ml bottles
25-30 largish elderflower heads, from a wild clean place.
1kg granulated sugar
25g tartaric acid
1 long peeled strip of unwaxed lemon
750ml nearly simmering water
Fine kitchen muslin
1. Snap off any particularly thick stalks connected to the flower heads, leaving just the slim stems holding each blossom.
2. Put the flower heads in a large preserving pan or bowl.
3. Sprinkle over the sugar and tartaric acid.
4. Peel the lemon rind & add to the pan, along with all the lemon juice.
5. Add the hot water and stir gently but well. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to stand in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring every now and then.
6. The sugar should completely dissolve and the syrupy cordial will become infused with the flavours of elderflowers. Strain the contents of the pan through a muslin-lined colander into a clean bowl.
7. Decant, seal and store in sterilised bottles.
8. To sterilise bottles – preheat an oven at 180c/350f/Gas 4. 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.