Mary Kemp:

It’s the time of year when the sweet scent of el­der­flower fills the air – and the time to make a de­li­cious drink

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - Mary Kemp

The del­i­cate el­der­flower is Mary’s treat for May

May is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s a time when, espe­cially of an even­ing, you can hap­pily just sit and watch what’s go­ing on around you.

If we have a warm spring the gar­den, which is full of roses, will be start­ing to burst into colour, and the adult blue tits seem­ing to spend for­ever fly­ing back and for­wards as they feed their young. We have a fam­ily of lit­tle owls who perch in the fruit trees; you only just no­tice them when the light catches them.

And then the vis­i­tor I am not quite so happy about, (although I ad­mire its sheer au­dac­ity), are the munt­jac deer; if they can get in they will leisurely graze the flower beds!

The hedgerows go mad, and ev­ery­where there will be an ex­plo­sion of elder flow­ers, a real hedgerow treat. These sweetly scented, creamy white flow­ers will soon be at their best, and all but ready to be gath­ered to make a win­ters sup­ply of el­der­flower cor­dial. Elder­flow­ers are best picked on a sunny day, just as the many tiny buds are be­gin­ning to open and some are still closed, be­cause then ev­ery flower in the spray will be full of pollen; and there­fore have the clean­est, fresh­est flavour.

When the petals start to change to a dull white colour and look tired, the pollen will have dropped and the flavour will be much less in­tense. Don’t pick the flow­ers when they be­gin to turn brown be­cause, ap­par­ently, the syrup will have a faint taste of cat’s pee!

It’s best not to shake the flow­ers as you pick them. I know it’s tempt­ing to try and get rid any creepy crawlies that may be lurk­ing in the buds, but the down­side of do­ing this is that you are also shak­ing out the pollen and with it that won­der­ful sum­mer flavour. You will strain the cor­dial when it’s made, which will re­move any for­eign bod­ies, later in the pro­cess.

I have many dif­fer­ent recipes for el­der­flower cor­dial, all very

sim­i­lar. Some use cit­ric acid, but you can equally use a lit­tle white wine or cider vine­gar. I tend to use a lit­tle cit­ric acid and the cor­dial keeps through the win­ter. I use a mix of lemon and limes, the fra­grant taste of lime works well with the del­i­cate el­der­flower flavour.

To ev­ery 20 el­der­flower heads put 1kg of gran­u­lated sugar in a pan with 1.25 litres of wa­ter, dis­solve the sugar then bring the pan to the boil. Put the flower heads in a large bowl with one heaped tea­spoon of cit­ric acid and the zest and juice of a lemon and lime, pour over the hot syrup, cover and leave for 24hours. Strain through muslin and bot­tle in ster­ilised jars.

It’s so easy to grab a bot­tle of cor­dial when shop­ping but once you’ve made your own, bought va­ri­eties will never taste as good. When mak­ing your own, the most ex­pen­sive in­gre­di­ent is the sugar and with a bit of your time on a warm sum­mer’s day, the re­sult is fan­tas­tic. Find out more about Mary Kemp’s cookery the­atres, demon­stra­tions and more recipes at

ABOVE: You can eas­ily make your own re­fresh­ing el­der­flower cor­dial, says Mary

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