Cap­ture the long days in a bot­tle

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES - with Stephanie Sum­merell

IT has been said that sum­mer starts when el­der trees burst into flower and ends in late Au­gust when their berries are ripe. The ap­pear­ance of th­ese lacy, head­ily fra­grant blooms is there­fore al­ways a wel­come sight and they are now mak­ing a de­but in our hedgerows. If you’re close to the coun­try­side you won’t be far from a plen­ti­ful sup­ply and at this time of year I reg­u­larly ap­pear home from a dog walk with a cou­ple of freshly picked sprigs to add when cooking fruit for pies or desserts – I find they’re es­pe­cially good with rhubarb, which in my gar­den at least, is also abun­dant.

The dis­tinc­tive flavour of el­der­flower, flo­ral and fra­grant, sub­tle yet heady, must surely be one of the iconic tastes of sum­mer and by mak­ing cor­dial you can cap­ture sum­mer in a bot­tle for year round use. It’s re­ally quick and easy to make – and never cheap to buy – so with el­der­flow­ers ripe for pick­ing, free and read­ily avail­able in lo­cal hedgerows, why not give it a go?

First gather your el­der­flow­ers. Try to find a hedgerow away from roads to avoid pol­lu­tion and if you’re on a foot­path it’s prob­a­bly a good idea to pick from high enough on the plant to avoid pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion from pass­ing dogs. Se­lect flower heads with newly opened flow­ers – older ones be­come tainted with bit­ter­ness – and use them fresh.

Once home gen­tly rinse them to re­move any dirt and bugs – but don’t overdo it as you want to re­tain as much of the in­tense per­fume as pos­si­ble for max­i­mum flavour.

Try dip­ping them briefly into cold wa­ter and spin­ning them in a salad spin­ner.

For a cou­ple of bot­tles of cor­dial put a kilo of caster sugar into a large bowl, pour over 800ml of boil­ing wa­ter and stir un­til the sugar has dis­solved. Stir in a 50g packet of cit­ric acid (you can buy this at the chemist’s) and add 15 large el­der­flower heads and two sliced lemons. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for five days, stir­ring daily. On the sixth day strain the cor­dial through a muslin-lined sieve or jelly bag and pour into clean bot­tles. On the sev­enth day di­lute one part cor­dial to two or three parts wa­ter, add ice and lemon and re­lax, prefer­ably in your gar­den in the sun.

The cor­dial should keep for up to a year, so re­peat day seven as many times as you feel the urge.

Cheers!

Gather the abun­dant blooms to to make el­der­flower cor­dial

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