Welcome to Day 8 of the #30DaysWild Challenge with Essex Wildlife Trust!
Yesterday we fed the ducks after learning more about what is best for their digestive system, the ducks I saw sent a “quack, quack” back which I am sure is a sign of thanks.
Today’s task is:
Harvest some Elderflower and start making cordial
Elder trees are extremely common in Harlow, they line our river, can be seen in the majority of woods and act as a natural border around the farm. Make sure you get permission before foraging these flowers, we would don’t want anyone getting in trouble.
There are many amazing myths in elder history my personal favourite being the elder mothers vengeance. An old wives tale the if an elder tree is cut down the elder mother will create discomfort for the tree cutter as revenge, science tells us this is likely linked to the burning of elder wood more than actually cutting it down. Elderwood, when burned, give off slightly toxic fumes which if inhaled would create a dizziness, headaches or even sickness. As the rhyme goes “Elder is the lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed ye be”
Elder trees initially give off Elderflowers which later turn to Elderberries, the flowers tend to be best harvest-wise between May and July so we are smack bang in the middle. Once you can recognise them they are easy to collect and fairly easy to process. There are some beautiful recipes for Elderberries too that will appear in our blogs later in the year (keep watching).
So just to be clear this is what an elderflower looks like:
The following recipe is a simple cordial, this can either be drunk or used in other food products such as; lollipops, splashed into fruit salads or complementing anything containing gooseberries.
Prep time 12ish hours (of which 30 minutes require activity.=)
Cook time is roughly 10 minutes
Makes roughly 2 litres
- 25ish elderflower heads
- 1.5 litres of water
- 3 lemons or limes (depending on flavour) zested finely and about 150ml of juice.
- 1 orange also zested finely and with juice saved, 150ml mentioned above includes this juice.
- Extra slices of lime if desired
- 1kg sugar
- 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
- Inspect the elderflower heads and carefully remove any insects.
- Place the flower heads with the orange and lemon/lime zest in a large bowl.
- Bring to boil the 1.5 litres of water, pour it over the flowerheads and citrus zest in the bowl.
- Leave overnight to infuse.
- Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or a clean old tea towel (as pictured) and pour in to a saucepan.
- Add the sugar, citrus juice and if using the citric acid.
- Gently heat to dissolve the sugar, bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes after this has happened.
- Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles, remembering to seal them.
Voila! You have now successfully made elderflower cordial! Enjoy!