While the seasons change from Summer to Fall in America and Europe, over in Australia the seasons turn from Spring into Summer! Our Northern friends are reaching for their cosy knits, while we Southerners are putting ours away and spending more time in the summer breezes sipping our favourite beverages on ice.
To the casual onlooker, Summer might not seem like the perfect time to get medieval. It's too hot for armour and layers of woolen clothing and the blistering sun makes jousting and tournaments exhausting. It feels like only the truly dedicated medievalist can indulge his or her passion year round.
Summer is the perfect time to become familiar with herbal cordials which are steeped in history. Elderflower cordial is my pick of the bunch every time.
Elder, which is a native plant to Britain and can be found growing enthusiastically in hedgerows, has long been used in herbal medicine but also to make cordial, wines, juices and jams. The flowers and the berries can both be used, and even today elderflower cordials can be bought in supermarkets.
For a delightful Summer treat, you can make some with only a little effort at home. Don't have an elder plant? Time to make friends with someone who has one and ask nicely for a cutting. They grow and sucker prolifically and you'll be doing them a favour by taking some. Trust me on this.
This wonderful and easy recipe for saft, elderflower cordial, comes from swedishfood.com who also have some great serving suggestions and recipe substitutions.
40 large elderflower heads in full bloom
3 lemons, preferably unwaxed
2 litres (8 cups) water
2 kg (8 cups) granulated sugar
50 g (4 tbsp) citric acid, optional
- Cut the elderflower heads directly into a non-reactive container that is large enough to accommodate 4 litres.
- Pick over the flowers removing any insects and leaves, but try and avoid removing the flowers from the container or wiping up the pollen at the bottom of the container.
- Slice the lemons and add them on top of the flowers.
- Bring 2 litres of water and 2 kg of sugar to a boil in a large pot, stirring periodically to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the citric acid until it dissolves. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the lemon slices and elderflowers.
- Stir everything well and cover the container with a lid or a towel and let it sit in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days. Stir daily, more often if you can.
- After 3-5 days, strain the mixture through a piece of muslin into a clean bowl. Discard the flowers and lemon slices.
If necessary, strain a second time through good quality kitchen towel or coffee filter paper and transfer to sterilised bottles or plastic containers if you are freezing it. Store the cordial/syrup in the refrigerator or freezer.
The best serving suggestion is to dip more fresh flower heads in batter and cook like a fritter or pancake and unwind with a good book on the verandah with your home-made elderflower cordial on ice.
Summer in Australia is hotting up and this is the perfect chill down!