Elderflowers - they're in season right at this very moment and if you live in England and you take a look out of your window I bet you £10 that you'll be able to see a tree or two from where you're standing.
I also bet that once you've spotted the familiar white sprays of flower you'll carry on seeing them wherever you go. It turns out that (in my corner of this green and pleasant land at least) most trees are in fact Elder trees, hiding in plain sight! They're in your back garden. They're growing in and amongst other trees in scrubby patches of woodland, either standing tall and proud or hunkering down close to the ground and pretending to be a bush. Look out of the window the next time you're on the train on the morning commute - uhuh, elderflowers.
You can gather a whole sackful of flowers very quickly indeed and then you can go home and make either elderflower champagne or elderflower cordial. I decided to make cordial this time as it's quick and easy - I followed Pam Corbin's recipe from the River Cottage Preserving Handbook and am so pleased with the results!
Makes around 2 litres
About 25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon and orange juice and citric acid (if using). Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw tops or corks.
The recipe made two and a half wine bottles worth of heaven scented syrup. I decanted the half bottle into an ice cube tray to make sweet drinks in a flash a little later on in the Summer, one bottle we drank before I could take any photos and one bottle remains. Ready to be incorporated into ice lollies, ice cream, cakes pudding!