Last Thursday afternoon, we were sitting in Joanie's courtyard drinking cool glasses of elderflower cordial mixed with water, eating strawberries and sweet little poppyseed-stuffed yeasted crescents that she'd made that afternoon (they'll be in the book, I promise you!) and watching Hugo run after a ball and I realized that it was basically my dream fantasy of life in Berlin, except it was actually happening to me. [Insert blissful sigh.]
Before we left (at which point Hugo cried, just like I always did when I was little and it was time to leave Joanie's), Joanie grabbed one of her many baskets, lined it with paper and went out behind the garage to the enormous elderflower bush growing there to snip off a bunch of heads for me. I snapped a picture of the beautiful flowers for Instagram and then Abbey asked me to blog about making elderflower cordial and hey presto here we are. I aim to please!
Elderflower cordial is one of those things that seems impossibly complicated from afar, but in practice is silly easy. Though I do have to qualify that by saying that it is, of course, only easy if you have access to elderflower bushes (and preferably ones not lining a major roadway). If you don't, my apologies. But if you're one of the lucky people that have them growing in your local parks or backyards, then elderflower cordial is ridiculously easy and so delicious that it should go on your to-do list right now.
Okay, so the first requirement is a flowering elderflower bush that is not contaminated with exhaust. Got that? Great! Next, make sure that the bush hasn't been rained on in the past few days. Now get yourself a basket, line it with paper towels or a piece of Kraft paper and grab a pair of clippers. At the bush, hold the basket underneath each head of flowers and snip the head directly into the basket. You'll want about 25 heads. The pollen in the tiny elderflower blossoms is what makes the cordial so delicious and fragrant, which is why you don't want to lose any of it.
Once that's done, go home and find yourself a big old crock. Make sure it's clean. Holding each elderflower head over the crock, carefully snip the tiny blossoms into the crock. Do not wash the elderflowers before doing this! (This is why I told you earlier that exhaust-free flowers are essential.) If there are any bugs, try to pick them off before doing your snipping. Discard the flower stalks. Shake whatever pollen gathered on the paper lining into the crock as well. Next, gather up three or four organic lemons. Slice them thinly using a very sharp knife and add the lemon slices to the crock.
Put 1 kilo of sugar (this is equivalent to 2.2 pounds) in a big pot on the stove and add 1.5 liters of water (6 cups of water). Turn the heat up high, stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cool slightly, then pour the hot syrup over the elderflowers and lemon slices in the crock. Cover tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and put somewhere cool for a minimum of three and a maximum of five days. Stir the mixture once a day.
When the mixture is finished steeping, put a big pot on the stove and balance a sieve over the pot. Pour the contents of the crock into the sieve and let them drain well. (Do not press down on the lemons and elderflowers, though.) Add 3 tablespoons of citric acid (also known as lemon salt or sour salt in Indian grocery stores) to the pot and then bring to a brief boil before taking the pot off the stove.
Using a funnel, fill a couple very clean glass bottles with the hot liquid (you'll need capacity for about 1.5 liters of cordial). Close the bottles up and let them cool before storing them somewhere dark and cool for up to a year. Mix with sparkling or tap water for a refreshing drink (about a tablespoon per glass, though the ratio is obviously up to you) or with Prosecco, sparkling water, a squeeze of lemon and a sprig of mint for a gorgeous cocktail called the Hugo. Yes, really. :)
(The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the quantities in this recipe differ from the one in My Berlin Kitchen. The difference is that the yield on that one is a little higher and the sugar content of this one is a little lower. I'm really happy with the way this batch turned out.)
To me, elderflower cordial mixed with cold water tastes like the essence of summer (and other things, but you'll have to read my book for them) and I rarely have any of it left by the time the days shorten and get cold again. So go out while the picking's good and make hay while the sun shines.
In other news, I'm thrilled to be a speaker at the Food Blogger Connect conference in London in a few weeks! I'll be speaking about the transition from blogging to book-writing, and will be taking part in the panel about the business of cookbook publishing in general. The full-weekend passes are sold out, but you can still buy tickets to the conference for individual days. I'm speaking on Saturday and will be on the cookbook panel on Sunday. I'll also be signing books. If you are going to be there, please come and say hi!