Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Elderflower Cordial

The Elderflowers are a bit late this year...but not to worry! But I spotted the other day that the biggest Elder tree around here got there in the end, and I've started off the first batch of Elderflower Cordial. (That's it steeping in the a brewing bucket in the picture above)

It's so simple to make, and such a wonderful summer drink topped up with fizzy water. Being able to make stuff like this from foraged ingredients is one of the reasons we wanted to move out of London (Not that there is any shortage of Elder there!) I did go on some guided forage walks last year, which were most informative, but I've not had a lot of time to make use of some of the local 'wild harvest' yet.

One of the things I wanted to try making, was candied Alexanders, as I tried some last year and it was delicious. Having positively ID'd it with an expert, I now know there is a huge bank of it growing along the road out of Gwbert back into the village. Alexanders is the same family as Angelica, and Parsley...but is most commonly served as a vegetable. It was fantastic candied, like the most fragrant and aromatic Angelica ever.

A guided beach forage identified which of the seaweeds growing at Poppit Sands is Laver, and also that there is no poisionous seaweed in the UK, which is useful to know! However to make a pot of Laverbread, the traditional Welsh delicacy you'd need a huge amount, and it has to be boiled for hours to make it turn into the dark green goo that you can buy in Tesco off fresh the fish counter...So I guess mostly I'll be doing that. Penclwydd is in Gower, which is where the Laver is harvested, so it's a genuine Welsh product, even if it does come from Tesco. We tried several seaweeds on the forage, and someone had made some 'sushi' sheets from Laver (it's the same family as Nori) and cooked some winkles on the beach in several ways...tempura winkles were the best!

I'm offering guests that stay here for a few days a choice of breakfast, and the opportunity to try Laverbread if they want to. I make mine with oatmeal, mixing with the prepared seaweed into small cakes, which are then traditionally fried in bacon fat. I really like it, and of course it's packed with vitamins and trace elements, so incredibly good for you! (Apart from the being fried in bacon fat bit)

Other 'wild' foods we've used since we've been here are nettles, which made a fantastic bright green pesto (that was a James Wong Recipe) and Wild Garlic in a quiche. I'm trying to get some Wild Garlic growing in the garden here, so I have it to hand, and it's a pretty plant too. We've also made some salads with various wild additions, we have Wall Pennywort growing locally, and Jack-in-the-hedge or Garlic Mustard.

Recipe for Elderflower Cordial.

Makes a little over 2L of cordial to be diluted.

20 heads of Elderflowers, newly opened are best, and try to choose ones without insects.
3 Sliced lemons (used unwaxed or organic ones)
3lb granulated white sugar
2 1/2 oz citric acid (can be bought from homebrew suppliers)
2 1/2 pints of boiling water
1/2 campden tablet (Also from homebrew shops)

Place elderflowers in a large container (I usually make a triple batch of this in a brewing bucket) Add the sliced lemons, and sugar, and citric acid and pour over the boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover and leave for five days, stirring morning and evening each day.

Strain into another large container, through a sieve lined with muslin and add another crushed campden tablet (this helps to preserve it and stop it fermenting) Bottle in clean bottles which have been sterilised with a brewing sterilising powder like VWP.

Wine bottles look nicest and can have arty handmade labels added, which makes them a nice gift, but plastic 2l fizzy drinks bottles are fine!

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