In the hedgerows around Puggs Meadow the foaming white of the may trees is giving way to the frothy cream of the elders, a cue to start hoarding bottles for making elderflower cordial. My mum has always made gallons of cordial and also “champagne” – sometimes with rather explosive results, there is still a sizeable pockmark in the store cupboard ceiling where an errant bottle of elderflower champagne blew its cork.
Now with a store cupboard of my own to redecorate, I asked her for her recipes, printed unedited below. I think when she uses whisky bottles as a measurement, she means 75cl, though it may well mean a litre… She recommends using plastic fizzy drinks bottles for the champagne – easier to tell if they are going to blow and less carnage if they do – and, ever practical, she told me to pick flowers well above dog peeing height. Her recipe for cordial includes citric acid, usually available in chemists, although my brother was told in the Warminster Boots he’d have to try the Westbury branch – Warminster doesn’t stock citric acid as the local drug dealers used it to cut with other things. Classy. Many thanks to him for the photo.
20 large heads of elderflowers (snip off the heads with scissors)
4lb (1.8kg) granulated sugar
2 ¼oz (65g) citric acid
2 pints (1.1l) boiling water
Put sugar in large bowl and pour on boiling water and stir to dissolve.
Add citric acid and stir. Grate in zest of lemons, then slice them and add
the slices. Put in the elderflower heads, pushing them well down. Cover and leave over night.
Next day, pour through a nylon sieve and then through a jelly bag or
muslin (or tea towel). Put into bottles and close tightly. Fills about 3 whisky bottles.
Pour on to ice and top up with gin and soda water. Have over gooseberries,
ices and fruit salads. When open keep in fridge. Keeps for longer in the freezer.
4 large heads elderflower. NB pick these as far from the road as possible as they MUST NOT BE WASHED or you lose all the natural yeast on them which is what makes the fizz
1 gallon (4.5l) cold water
1lb 8oz (680g) sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Put all ingredients except the lemons in a large bowl.
Squeeze and quarter the lemons and add to the mixture.
Stand (not you) for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Strain and bottle in screw top plastic bottles leaving plenty of room for
expansion and check them daily to see if they’re looking terribly tight in
which case, release the pressure. Ready in about a week to 10 days.