For the first time last year I made my own elderflower syrup. I was rather excited by the prospect, not just because I love foraging, but because we were going to visit my family in Italy the following month. I thought what better gift to give than something very British and homemade. I proceeded to collect my flowers from various places around Sussex all the while picturing the surprised faces and gasps of curiosity from my Italian friends and family when I presented this unusual bottle of pale yellow liquid.
The scenario was quite a different one to the one being described above. I handed over the bottle – specially couriered in a cool bag all the way from Brighton via Verona and Venice – along with a special edition jubilee tin of M&S biscuits. Needless to say the Queens head on a tin was cause to a lot more gasping than my elderflower. Turns out it’s not that British! Even though elderflower cordial has strong Victorian connections there are recipes that date back to the Roman times and elderflowers can be found in pretty much all of the former Roman empire territories. The whole of central Europe!
On return from our Italian adventure, whilst at my Dad’s restaurant in Bristol, he offered me some elderflower cordial (now he knows about it?!). He told me he drank it all the time in Germany, where he used to live. Oh well, even though it may not be native to our island it still screams British summertime to me and I will be sure to be enjoying this years batch at a picnic or two.
20 – 25 Elderflower heads
1 Kg Sugar
1.5 lt Water
2 tbsp Citric acid (available at pharmacies)
- Get the insects off of the flowers by dipping them in cold water and giving them a shake.
- Zest the lemons with a peeler into large strips and then slice the lemons.
- Put water and sugar in a large saucepan. Put on a low heat and let the sugar dissolve before bringing it to the boil. Take off the heat.
- Place the elderflower heads, lemon zest and lemon slices into the pan, cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours.
- Using some muslin line a sieve and strain the syrup over a bowl.
- Pour the elderflower syrup into sterilised bottles and seal.
- Serve diluted with either sparkling or still water and a slice of lemon.