Recipe: sugar-free elderflower and rose cordial

20/06/2017 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Every summer I used to make elderflower and rose cordial – or summer cordial, as it became known. It seemed like the perfect way to capture the magic of this fragrant season. I’d walk the fields with my young daughter, and we’d collect elderflowers and wild roses, wild strawberries and sometimes even little field pansies, or more often we’d pluck a few pansies and lavender sprigs from the plants that basked in sunshine by the kitchen door.

However, this year something has changed. I gave up sugar last Lent, and the habit has stuck. Now I’d rather my cordials were not super-sweet. True, sugar is an effective, traditional preservative for drinks and jams. Looking at it logically, however, sugar is not essential. Fridges and freezers do a pretty good job of preservation!

So this year I’ve adapted my old recipe. This version is sugar-free. Instead, it contains a relatively small amount of honey. Ideally, a good, local, liquid honey.

The difference in flavour? Truthfully, I much prefer this version. It seems to me that the honey, which itself it made from the nectar of countless flowers, brings out the fragrant, nectar-rich scent of the summer blooms.

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You can adapt the flowers according to what’s available. Right now, roses are everywhere, so they’re the main ingredient in the cordial illustrated here. The roses can be wild ones from the hedgerows, though it’s best to include plenty of fragrant garden ones too.  Later in the season, you could probably add meadowsweet. I haven’t tried that yet.

The key is that the flowers are not heated, so they keep their amazingly delicate flavour. I hope you agree the recipe captures the refreshing, uplifting essence of summer.

For this healthier recipe I added raspberries and wild strawberries from my garden. A small shop- or farm-bought punnet of either would do the job equally well.

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Ingredients:

1 litre water

3/8 cup/100g honey

1 bowl/60 g mixed elderflowers (thick stalks removed), fragrant rose petals (unsprayed & from a garden or hedgerow, not a shop); a few pansies are an optional extra

5 sprigs lavender

Optional: 3 generous sprigs lemon verbena leaves

1 scant cup/120 g strawberries or raspberries, or a mix of both

1 lemon

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Method:

Boil water and let it cool for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the flowers and fruit. Check flowers over and remove any discolourations or bugs. Wash fruit and drain. Slice lemon. Place all flowers and fruit in a large bowl. Add lemon verbena leaves if using.

Add the honey to the cooled water and stir to dissolve.

Pour the honey water over all other ingredients in bowl, cover with a clean muslin or cotton cloth and leave in a room where it won’t be disturbed for 14 to 24 hours, stirring once or twice during that time. (You can check the flavour is to your liking by dipping a clean spoon in and tasting the liquid neat. Broadly, you want to infuse it long enough to capture the delicate flower flavour, but not too long or the fruitiness will come to dominate.)

 

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Strain mixture through muslin or cotton cloth. Squeeze well to extract the juice. Pour the fragrant cordial into bottles. Refrigerate. Can be stored for up to a week in the fridge. You can also freeze in a plastic container (leave room for expansion) for six or seven months. Try adding a neat dash to your sparkling wine during the winter festive season!

To serve: dilute 1:5 with cold still or sparkling water. Garnish with mint sprigs if liked.

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