The talk on Twitter this afternoon was of elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne. The flowers are already forming on the trees in the valleys here, but we in the hills must wait a little longer for this free gift from the hedgerows. I remembered making the cordial many years ago and I found the recipe, rather crumpled and torn, at the back of a recipe folder.
As you see it is just a scribbled note in my very worst fast handwriting but it set off a train of memories. Although it is not dated, I can tell when I must have copied it. The top half of the page is notes from a course I did at Birmingham University in the early 1980’s on the European Union, still called then the European Economic Union (EEC). I did badly in the exam and only just scraped through. Judging by the quality of the note-taking I am not surprised!
That was not a good year for me, I had lots of personal problems and I spent part of the summer staying in Edgbaston with a friend, Linda, one of my tutors. I remember taking a bottle of elderflower cordial as a present; she had never tasted it before and said it was ‘nectar’.
I notice I wrote ‘elderberry cordial’ by mistake and changed it to elderflower. Perhaps I was remembering my first holiday with my soon-to-be husband – a week in a caravan at Westward-Ho in Devon. It was supposed to be a romantic week, just me and husband-to-be, but my mother threw a fit about my proposed immoral behaviour (this was a very long time ago!) and said I needn’t think I was coming back to live in a respectable house after behaviour like that. I was all for going anyway but husband-to-be liked a quiet life so my mum and her sister came along too to protect the good name of the family. There was not a lot of privacy and absolutely no disgraceful behaviour. I have three memories of the week: winning a coffee set at the camp site bingo night (I go away for a naughty week and end up playing bingo with my mum!), washing my hair in rainwater for the first time and being delighted with how soft it felt and getting more than a little tipsy after two schooners of elderberry wine. We knew how to live back then.
Which brings me to the recipe:
20 heads of elderflower
4 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
3 lbs sugar (roughly 1.4kg)
2 oz tartaric acid (50gm)
3 pints water (1.8litres), boiled and cooled
Put all ingredients in large bowl and leave to stand for 48 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain and bottle. Serve diluted to taste.
I see a note on the right of the recipe which says ‘goosegog and elderberry sorbet’. I don’t remember making that, but I imagine you could do it with stewed gooseberries and some of the cordial.
As for elderflower champagne, if you leave the cordial for long enough I remember it got a bit ‘lively’, but for a proper recipe see the excellent Bliss blog at this URL : http://bit.ly/9giNnn. (I promise to work out how to do a proper link very soon)