Summertime's in Bloom

If you can, drop everything and get out in the sunshine. The elderflowers are at their most perfect peak of fragrant loveliness and it's time to make cordial and cocktails! Mother has spent the day cycling about the marshes, picking armfuls of flowers in the warm scented May sunshine to make her gooseberry and elderflower vodka. So what if she is covered in pollen and sneezing, so what if tiny insects have made their home in her hair, so what if she finds flowers in her underwear. This is exactly what she gave up the sensible day job for!

If you want to make elderflower cordial too, here is what to do. Set out on a dry sunny day, when all chance of dew and rain are gone. Even better if it has been dry for a day or two. You are looking for elderflowers that have just opened, so if the petals are falling off or starting to turn brown in the middle reject them. They should smell lemony and sweet. Pick a whole carrier bag full. Abide by the foragers code - avoid anything below waist level, don't damage the tree and leave plenty behind for your fellow foragers.

Boil 3L of water and put it in a large pot, add 2kg of sugar. Stir to dissolve and let cool a little while you are snipping as much of the green stalk off your flower heads as you can. The original recipe says 40 flower heads are enough but I pack in as many in as I can. Add 110g of citirc acid powder (you should be able to get it from the chemist), and stir to ensure all is dissolved before adding your flowers. Zest 8 lemons and cut the fruit into slices, put both zest and fruit into the pot. Squish everything about a bit to make sure it is mixed well. Cover with clingfilm and also the pot lid. Leave to stand somewhere cool for 48 hours. Then strain through muslin into bottles. This will keep for a few days in the fridge, or for at least a year in the freezer, and is unbelievably delicious diluted with soda water. And gin.

A word of warning elderflowers are covered in wild yeasts, if you leave a sealed bottle out of the fridge, fermentation will begin with with explosive results. For your home work may I also draw your attention to the joys of elderflower champagne....

And here at The Palace we are knocking up refreshing elderflower coolers whilst stcoks last


25ml gin, 25ml Mother's Ruin Gooseberry and Elderlfower Liqueur, 25ml homemade elderflower cordial, soda water. Place plenty of ice in a tall glass, add the gin, Gooseberry and Elderflower liqueur and the elderflower cordial. Stir then add soda water to fill the glass stirring gently as you do so. Garnish with a slice of apple and some elderflowers if you have some, aaaand ... Drink up!