Elderflower cordial memories

Recipe picThe 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:

Elderflower Cordial
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)


13 responses to “Elderflower cordial memories

  1. Wellies on – I’m off elderflower collecting although I sense I may be to early (in more than one sense of the word).

    I have somewhat of a love hate relationship with the elder tree. In the garden it tends to pop up precisely where it’s not wanted but in the “wild” it’s unbeatable. In fact we have one, self seeded, growing through a mixed hedge – but with a pair of turtle doves in the top canopy & a pair of goldfincehes lower down, it is still out of bounds, so a foraging I’ll be going.

  2. This sounds delightful … thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Looking up that recipe brought back a lot of memories, didn’t it?

    The cordial sounds very yummy so I’m going to give it a try as soon as Sam Bucus is in flower. They are in bud here at the mo.

    BTW playing bingo with your mum isn’t my idea of a romantic week away either. Poor you! 😉

  4. patientgardener

    Disgraceful attempting to be immoral – what were you thinking!! Thanks for the receipe. I am going to seek out 20 flower heads if it kills me, then of course I will need some bottles – any idea how many?

    • Helen: I don’t remember how many bottles it made, but I would think it will be between two and three litres. As for what I was thinking about going away with boyfriend – I remember exactly what I was thinking 😉

  5. I love elderflower cordial with fizzy water. It’s best chilled though – perhaps the only thing which might cause me a little pang and a faint, wistful wish for a fridge.


    P.S. I think ‘wistful’ ought to be spelled ‘whistful’. That way it could include a little sigh of longing.

    • Esther: I agree about whhhhhistful and about chilled drinks in summer. By leaving bottles in the barn in a bucket of water collected from the stream at the bottom of the garden (water comes down from around 1500 metres so it is always cold even in summer) we can approximate to chilled. I miss the chink of ice though. I hadn’t realised that both Lucy and you were fridge-less. 😉

  6. Oh, Fridgelessness is a growing trend. It’s really catching on. Before long, millions of people will be wondering why on earth they wasted so much space and money on maintaining noisy, big white boxes in their kitchens.

  7. My mum makes a kind of ‘elderflower drink’ every year – essentially just sticking sugar elderflowers and lemons in a massive pot and leaving it to steep, and so it is a taste that has layers of memories for me too. She never gets round to bottling it, it all just gets drunk. I reckon I am going to make it too this year, to prove I am finally a proper mum.
    Very inspiring Gilly, whatever next?!

    • Lia: I like your mum’s way of doing it, It’s kind of a rumtopf, without the rum. I might try that, as well as bottling it. Here’s a thought, you could add gin to it …… an elder-gin-topf.

  8. Thanks for this Gilly. Am determined to make elderflower cordial this year. Always been stumped by the tartaric acid bit, but have googled it and apparently I will find some in the shop-that-sells-everything over the road. Hopefully will inspire wonderful memories for all of us, too, Kate

    • Kate: Welcome. I hope you find the tartaric acid, it seems to be impossible to find here in France. I’ve been told that citric acid is used instead but I haven’t tried it yet.

  9. Well now. Tartaric acid. I’ll have to try that. Both citric and tartaric acidsseem unobtainable in France, but I might just have a bit somewhere. Thanks!

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