The taste of summer

Finally, the time has come to make one my favourite things of early summer … elderflower cordial. For me, it’s just the smell and taste of start of the summer. This year of course, like so many other things, it seems to have come early, so I’ve had to get organised and go picking just a few weeks earlier than usual. That’s the other difference this year – I’m not having to reply on a trip home to Kent to pilfer from my parents’ garden. This year, in my new Oxford home, all I need to do is get home after work, hop on the bike and take a 20 minute cycle along the tow path to get enough heads for a full batch … and there’s more than enough for another batch next week!

The great thing about this recipe is just how easy it is. It can be done after work and it’s ready the next day. It’s TOH’s mum’s recipe, although there’s so many variations out there I’m sure you’ll find one to suit. to make it easy to remember, it’s like Davina’s DVD – it’s the power of 3, if you just excuse the mixing of Imperial and metric measurements! All you need is:

30 heads of elderflower

3 lbs of sugar (yes, really!)

3 litres of water

3 citrus fuits (I usually mix my lemons and oranges, cos that’s how I roll)

50 g of citric acid (ok, so it’s not a 3 … )

And the method is equally easy. Just plonk the elderflower head down in the bottom of a big bowl, and pop the sliced fruit on top. Sprinkle the citric acid on top and heat up the sugar and water together til the sugar’s completely dissolved. Pour the syrup on top and leave everything to steep, covered, for 24 hours. I then bottle the cordial in left over wine bottles, sterilised in a warm oven, as I find it keeps much better than in those kilner-type bottles. It does to keep it in a cool, dark place and they’ve been known to keep until the following season. I don’t think the five bottles I’ve made will keep that long – but there’s always more flowers on the tow path to be had!

Other than just mixing with water – TOH prefers still, I prefer fizzy – you can use it with so many other things. Mix with your preferred fizzy wine (champagne, prosecco, cava … all welcome here!), drizzle over ice-cream, use in apple or (even better) pear crumble, douse your home-grown strawberries … there’s so much summery goodness to be had from such an easy thing to make!

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