The sweetly scented, creamy-white flowers of the Elder Tree appear in abundance in hedgerows, scrub, woodlands and wasteland at the beginning of summer. The fresh flowers make a terrific aromatic cordial. They are best gathered just as the many tiny buds are beginning to open, and some are still closed. Gather on a warm, dry day (never when wet), checking the perfume is fresh and pleasing. Trees do differ and you will soon get to know the good ones. Remember to leave some flowers for elderberry picking later in the year. This recipe is sharp, lemony and makes a truly thirst-quenching drink. You can, however, adjust it to your liking by adding more or less sugar. The cordial will keep for several weeks as is. If you want to keep it for longer, either add some Citric Acid and sterilise the bottles before filling, or pour into plastic bottles and store in the freezer. Serve the cordial, diluted with ice-cold sparkling or still water, as a summer refresher – or mix with sparkling wine or Champagne for a classy do. Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries – or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.
Tip - 1gram of dried elderflowers is "approx" the same as 1 medium sized fresh elderflower head.
Inspect the Elderflower Heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.
Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a
couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles
with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.