Many moons ago, when Molly’s Kitchen first came into being, the idea was that Minnie and I would get together *quite often* and cook stuff that was a little more challenging to crack alone with a toddler tugging at our apron strings. We thought that our daughters, the two Mollys, would play together and let us get on with it.
Well, that was the theory. Turned out that Molly and Molly didn’t actually like each other that much at first. We hadn’t thought of that. Then, by the time they decided they did like each other, they entered the phase of ‘learning to share’ and ‘learning not to be antisocial tyrants with hard plastic weapons’. This meant unsupervised interaction between the Two Mollys was nigh on impossible for a time. We kind of gave up on the idea of trying to cook wonderful things together until they grew up a bit.
And so it was that we emerged dripping from an early summer characterised by torrential downpours and flooding and, on what felt like the only dry warm day in an age, met up to go elderflower picking with the girls. We said hello to the cows on the way. The girls picked daisies and buttercups and were happy for about 5 elderflowers’-worth. And then complained bitterly for the rest of it. It was too hot. There were nettles. They were bored. One Molly wanted water. The other a snack. And all this through whiney toddler-speak that only parents of children with limited vocabulary truly understand. Minnie and I worked like Trojans to collect enough elderflower for cordial, probably wishing at times that a large wooden horse would appear and take our children away for the afternoon, then hastily retreated back to the cottage to feed the beasts. Minnie and I knocked up a delicious chorizo and courgette pizza with mozzarella and fresh rocket from the garden and the girls ate their body weight in sausages and strawberries.
We ended up parting with our own elderflower stash and making cordial at home independently. Minnie has made it before but this was my first time and I was genuinely amazed that it tasted just like the stuff you buy in the shops. I followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe in The River Cottage Cookbook, virtually to the letter. A few things to note. You need to pick the Elderflower on a dry day (slightly challenging in the UK at the moment). Also the heads should have a mix of flower and bud (see photos for example). The whole thing doesn’t take long and is hugely satisfying. Do pop in the fridge to deter the mould.
Recipe (taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cook Book)
- 20-30 freshly picked heads of elderflower
- Zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange
- Up to 1.5kg granulated or caster sugar
- Up to 200ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx 3-5 lemons)
- Tartaric acid (optional)
- Place elderflower heads in a large bowl with the zest and pour over enough just boiled water to cover them completely (about 1.5 – 2 litres). Cover and leave overnight.
- Straight the liquid through muslin, gently squeezing.
- Measure the liquid and pour into a saucepan. To every 500ml of liquid add 350g sugar, 50ml lemon juice and a heaped teaspoon of tartaric acid if using. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, stirring from time to time.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and skim off any skum.
- Allow to cool and strain off any skum.
- Pour cordial through a funnel into clean bottles, filling them within about 2-3cm of the top. Seal bottles with screw tops or corks.