In the middle of summer, I like to prepare for the middle of winter:
It’s midsummer’s eve on the 21st of June. Here in Denmark people head for the beach on the 23rd, holding huge pagan bonfire’s to mark Sankt Hans Aften (The eve of St John). All along the coastline you can spot the glorious orange fires, which glow deep into the surreal white night. All while the sun reluctantly slips away to the west at 21:58. It’s magic.
Another ritual that I have adopted is to gather fragrant heads of elderflower on hot June afternoons:
Then steep them with lemons and huge amounts of sugar, to subtly capture the heady moment like a master perfumier.
In a bucket:
This gentle method really does create the best ever cordial. I don’t add any yucky preservative to make it last, preferring instead to freeze the syrup in plastic bottles, then defrost them on dark and dingy winter days. I don’t sieve or refine the mixture too much either. Instead the small white flowers to slip through the muslin and grace the chilled drink like little summer fairies.
This recipe is (you guessed it) taken from my recently published novel ‘Rice Pudding in a Duvet, the journey home with snacks.’
Elderflower Cordial / Hyldeblomstsirup
Shake the perfect heads of 30 freshly gathered elderflower to remove any insects. Place them in a large clean bucket with 3 kg sugar, 6 sliced lemons, 40 g of citric acid and 3.5 liters of cold water. Cover with a cloth and leave for 3 to 4 days. Stir and squeeze the ingredients at least 4 times a day with a clean arm. Strain the mixture through a fresh tea towel and pour into pretty bottles. This cordial should be kept in the fridge for no more than a couple of weeks. I tend to freeze big plastic bottles (3/4 full to allow for expansion).
This cordial is wonderful served with iced water, sparkling water, white wine, champagne and gin.