By Lea Harris
Several years ago my husband made elderflower wine. It tasted like floral white spirit and, unfortunately, produced a toxic hangover. So, it with trepidation that I approach this month's seasonal offering.
But there's something about the unique blossomy, sweet yet tangy taste of elderflowers that signifies the start of British summer time, so I've resolved to give this humble plant another chance to impress. There must be something good about it - it's been revered for its healing properties and ability to ward off evil spirits for centuries. It's also rumoured to relieve the symptoms of both asthma and flu.
Freshly picked flower heads from your garden, the local park, or even by the roadside can be deep fried in batter and served with ice cream or added to a glaze for a succulent joint of roast lamb. For the more adventurous, try elderflowers stewed with gooseberries and white wine as a sauce for mackerel or herring.
Left to ferment naturally, elderflowers can be turned into a very British version of Champagne; however, after sampling one homemade wine offering, I'm not going to recommend you try it! This non-alcoholic cordial is probably a safer bet, but I might just be tempted to add it to a martini if the mood takes me.
Elderflower cordial (Makes around 2.5 litres) 2.5 kg white sugar 35 elderflower heads 2 litres water 3 lemons 100g citric acid (available from chemists and brewing shops)
Slowly bring the sugar and water to the boil in a large pan.
Meanwhile, check the elderflower heads for any bugs or bits and pieces and remove them (there's no need to wash them). Place them in a large bowl. Zest the lemons and sprinkle this over the flowers, then quarter the lemons and add them to the bowl.
When the sugar syrup is boiling, stir it to make sure all the sugar is dissolved and use a ladle to pour it over the flowers. Stir in the citric acid and cover with a plate or tea towel. Leave the mixture overnight.
The next day, strain the cordial through some muslin or a very fine sieve and pour into glass bottles.
And there you have it, a taste of summer that will last all year.