Sunday, June 19, 2011

Glenariffe Elderflower Cordial

It is almost the longest day of the year and the evenings are just so bright and seem never-ending.  We have been spending an increasing amount of time in the garden, ignoring the computer, telephone and all other mod cons and it really feels like summer has begun. I love this time of the year, it puts a spring in my step and has me out of bed, sometimes well before six in the morning, baking cakes, oven roasting tomatoes, getting the lunches ready and sometimes having a quiet, peaceful coffee on the rooftop in the cool air when it seems only the birds are awake.
We spent last weekend in Glenariffe where the warm sunshine has brought the whole Glen alive with bees and insects and the Elderflower is out in a riot of white blossom.  Just a few months ago it was the white thorn bushes - evidence that this wonderful season changes everything so quickly.

The first time I tasted this delicious summer drink was in Berlin where my friend Babs and her family had gathered the elder flowers to make this refreshing drink to cool us all on warm days.  You might also be familiar with the supermarket and deli variety from Belvoir Farms ,an expensive bottled version, but making your own is just so much more satisfying and I think it tastes better too.
It can be simply diluted and served with crushed ice or, my current favourite tipple of choice, frozen as an ice cube and dropped into glass of cold Prosecco. Oh and I also found this recipe here for elderflower vinaigrette which sounds lovely.

The Elder tree is very common in Ireland, growing wild in hedgerows but also in gardens. So if you fancy a forage in the countryside this week, go for it, although if you do also spot one in your neighbour's garden, please ask permission and promise them a bottle!  Ensure that the flower heads you pick are unblemished, young and have plenty of pollen.  Also avoid a tree which is adjacent to a road where it will be contaminated by traffic fumes and dust.  The more rural and remote the tree, the better. 

Glens of Antrim Elderflower Cordial
  • about 20 young fresh elder flower heads
  • 1.5kg golden caster sugar
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • 2 oranges, quartered

  • All the elderflower recipes I have encountered advise that you should gently shake the flower heads to remove the bugs. Well I did shake and shake and shake them.  It took a lot of shaking before to get rid of the (millions of) creatures.
  • Bring the water to the boil in a large pan and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve it and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Place the elderflower heads, oranges and lemons in to a large clean bowl, large enough to take the liquid. 
  • Pour over the sugary liquid, cover with a tea towel and leave to soak for 24 hours.
  • The next day, strain the liquid and fruit through a muslin.  Tie a knot in the top and hang it over a bowl from something (I used the cooker extractor hood).  Make sure it is secure and leave it there to drip for a few hours.
  • Pour cordial into a sterilised bottle and keep in a cool dark place until needed.
Enjoy the sunshine and warmth with a glass of this flavoursome and satisfyingly home-made drink, even if it is inbetween the heavy downpours!

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