I’m a hit and miss forager. I might set out a few times a year when a particular hedgerow crop is in season. Blackberries absolutely, rowan and crab apples occasionally, mushrooms never. However when the harvest in question is on your doorstep, in fact, right next to the lean to cowshed, then it pays to set aside a little time to indulge in some foraging.
The elderflower, Sambucus nigra, has been in flower for some weeks, and I’ve been intending to make cordial for a while. May came and went and June has been too wet so far for picking. It’s best to gather the flowerheads on the morning of a sunny day, because it’s the pollen that imparts the delicious flavour. So you don’t want wet flowerheads where the pollen has been washed away, but leave it too late on a sunny day and the insects have taken all the pollen. Speaking of which, it’s best not to shake the heads to remove insects as this shakes off the pollen. I find most insects drop to the bottom of the bowl anyway. This morning was warm and sunny so off I went with a big bowl and picked 25 or so heads of newly opened flowers.
To the heads I’ve added the zest of 3 lemons and one orange plus 1.5 litres of boiling water. I’ve covered the bowl and this can steep for the next 24 hours. Tomorrow I’ll strain add 1kg of sugar and the juice from the citrus fruit and warm through until the sugar has dissolved. A quick simmer and then bottled. The cordial will keep for a few weeks in the fridge or can be decanted into ice cube trays and frozen. Added to sparkling water, the cordial makes a thirst quenching drink, or to G&T, vodka and tonic or prosecco for an elegant sundowner.
A classic pairing with the elderflower is gooseberry, and the fruit on our bushes is starting to ripen…
In the meantime we have plenty of strawberries to pick.