Though summer doesn’t seem to have made up its mind whether or not it is going to visit South Wales this year, the hedgerows are tentatively coming into flower. Along the cliff-top path between Penarth and Lavernock Point, swags of dog roses hang temptingly, inviting the kitchen-fixated walker to dream of jams, syrups and, best of all, Turkish delight. Throughout the town and the country nearby, plate-like heads of elderflowers shine in the sun. Eoin and I wandered past the elder bushes many times, until I could stand the temptation no longer. We went on a foraging expedition, and, after many years of meaning, hoping, intending and planning, yet never actually doing, I finally made elderflower cordial yesterday.
I used the recipe given by Liz at Gastronomy Domine, here, principally because I’ve had her cordial, and I know how good it is. I haven’t tasted mine yet, but I can say, with no boastfulness intended, that it smells wonderful. I was also very tempted by the version in Alys Fowler’s The Thrifty Forager, which uses grapefruit in addition to the usual lemon, but was stymied by a lack of the citrus fruit in question. Next time, I shall be more prepared. She also suggests making elderflower champagne, which sounds wonderful, though, with my housekeeping skills, I may have trouble finding the “scrupulously clean” 15 litre bucket required for the fermentation.
If you have any elder bushes near you, from which you may pick the flowers, please do try making some cordial: it’s wonderful stuff. Even my husband, who looks on foraging, like spinning, as an amusingly hippy-ish affectation, was seduced after a deep sniff of the steeping mixture. If summer is going to be a little erratic this year (and when is it anything but?), isn’t it worth seeing if you can bottle a little of the sunshine, to keep in your cupboard against the darker days ahead?