I always have trouble with my elders. That’s elder as in berry, flower and tree. I like to make elderflower champagne and cordial but never seem to be in the right place at the right time.
For example I was Down South recently and the countryside was awash with elder in bloom. Back in Sheffield they weren’t. I had to go searching high and low for elder in bloom and found a tree in Chelsea Park.
A few years ago I was reporting on the British Army playing war games in Germany and rested in a hedge smelling headily of sambucus nigra (it can smell of cat pee). When I got back home the season was over.
I almost missed them last year so topped up heavily with mayflower, hawthorn blossoms, which gave my cordial a hint of American cream soda.
I have given up trying to make elderflower champagne. I have bottles in the cellar over five years old. I daren’t touch them. They are a shade too energetic and no matter how gently I ease back the flip-top lid (like those old Corona bottles) the pent up carbon dioxide whooshes out and with it half the booze.
One year my wife and I thought we’d cracked it. She held a bucket at her side and I aimed the bottle at the bucket. Result? Sadly, no. My aim was not true. She was drenched in elderflower champagne. To be honest, I’ve never made a good one yet.
I’ve been collecting elderflower blossoms for cordial in the last week or so. Twenty or so blossom heads (plus a handful of hawthorn), three zested and sliced lemons, citric acid and sugar were steeped in a couple of litres of water for 24 hours then strained into sterilised bottles.
I’ll leave the amount of sugar up to you but don’t follow the amount in the BBC Good Food recipe as I did because the cordial will be far, far too sweet. No one but me would drink it and I have three litre bottles of elderflower unimpressé But we don’t waste in our house. Sweet things don’t taste as sweet when frozen so I turned a bottle of cordial into elderflower granita.
I poured most of a bottle into an empty ice cream tub, added the juice of a couple more lemons and froze. Usually with granita you stir the mixture every couple of hours until fully frozen but this time it refused to freeze until after I’d gone to bed. The next day it was like a Slush Puppy but tastier.
I was tempted to add some alcohol, as I usually do with granita, but I want the grandchildren to enjoy it.