The Wonderful Elderflower
I’ve got a cupboardful of recipe books from the most popular titles from Hugh, Jamie and Nigel, and of course The Cool Camping Cookbook, to an early Mrs Beeton from 1905, all of which are well thumbed along with the multitude of other cook books that make the middle of my book shelf bow. But, by far the most treasured and interesting is a 1950’s WI book on home made wine and cordials, which was / is my mother’s on permanent loan! It’s been well thumbed and annotated indicating clearly the sign of the times, that foraging from your doorstep was a given, to quote: “… the generous contributions which field and garden, woodland and hedgerow can make to our cupboards and our cellar.”
My mum’s scribed recipes in the front cover too -for Wheat and Barley wines, Parsnip, Marigold, Beetroot! Wow! What did I miss out on when I was growing up?
My absolute favourite is this which I make every year:
2 heads of elderflower
11/2 lb white sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 gallon water
The method suggests picking the heads when in full bloom add to a bowl with the lemon juice, rind, sugar and vinegar. Add the cold water and leave for 24 hours. Strain into screw top bottles for 2 weeks. Viola, fizzy pop!
I must admit I alter this slightly, I add far more flower heads, more like 6-8, making sure that the flowers are pulled from the stems, as the stem makes the mix bitter. But either way it makes a fantastically refreshing drink, never too potent, but a slight kick if you leave it longer.
If you heat the ingredients and increase the sugar and add more water, it makes a superb cordial:
1 pint water
1lb/ 450g sugar
2 tsp vinegar
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon.
Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the other ingredients and leave to steep for 24 hours, strain and bottle.
So refreshing served in iced water on a hot day!
“drinks for refreshment on hot days and for solace on cold nights.” The National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Home made Wines, Syrups and Cordials, Stephan Tallents June 1954
Words & images Sue Pryke