Saturday, 4 June 2011

Elderflower Cordial tweeked and without thunderbugs !

This is my second batch of elderflower cordial and my second blog about the process. My first blog - Cordial It Is Not last week (scroll down, or link on right), was lack of citric acid, and Charles kindly commented on his own experience of being taken for a mad bomber. Anyway, the citric acid arrived via the postman and off I trundled on the Tramper (link on list on right) and gathered forty heads of elderflowers. Brought them home in a large plastic bag which I deposited, opened, in the kitchen and made a cup of tea and sat outside under the oak tree gazing over my borrowed landscape of fields down to the river, listening to the peacocks, house martins and lambs, none of which were mine, so borrowed soundscape too. Bliss.

This blog post is also my instructions to myself on how to manage the whole process, a Tired Person's recipe and instruction, for next summer, when Lupus cogdysfunk'd I will probably have forgotten what a success this was, and just how much sugar solution I got on the door handles, keyboard, floor and clothes.

So back to work .... back to a kitchen window black with thunderbugs .... eeek .... (sorted) ... now to deal with the flower heads. And I rinsed them, which dealt with most of the thunderbugs, and dealt with most of the flavour also, as the rinsing water was a stunning bright green with floating thunderbugs, so I threw it away ! Mistake. Anyway, twenty four hours later the steeped flowerheads were drained through muslin which caught all the leftover thunderbugs as well as the flowerhead mash. Although the resulting cordial was lovely, it tasted of lemons as much as of elderflowers.

So the answer to thunderbugs is ...

Firstly RINSE the flowerheads carefully, individually, time-consumingly, in a litre of filtered water in a clean glass bowl, dunk and vigorously swish around and drain in a colander placed over another bowl to catch the precious drips. The water will gradually turn bright green - this is from the pollen in the flowers. This is the flavour source. It is Precious.

Secondly STRAIN the bright green liquid through a 90cm square of muslin folded into quarters, that is four thicknesses, held in a seive, into a clean glass bowl. All the thunderbugs will be held back from the liquid in the muslin. Keep this liquid. Rinse off the muslin and bid goodbye to the bugs as they swirl down the plug hole. Launder the muslin without detergent and air dry indoors.

Thirdly ADD this litre of precious liquid to the cooled sugar water to make up the total liquid required by your recipe. It will have turned from bright green to muddy yellowy green with a sediment, as in the bowl in the picture above, so stir the sediment before pouring the liquid.

Fourthly FREEZE the resulting cordial, using plastic water or juice bottles and plastic ice cube making bags for individual portions (2 cubes to a glass of water). Freezing solves all the possible problems of moulds and explosions. It may cause problems of chemical transfer from the plastic into the liquid, but I am trusting to the food grade of the plastics I use.

This was a successful answer to the thunderbug problem for me ... only 1, yes 1, thunderbug escaped into the liquid, and was easily fished out.

This is my tweeked recipe for 40 elderflower heads to make 3 litres of cordial. I don't like to use so much sugar and maybe next summer I will experiment with less, but until then:

2 of 90cm x 90cm muslin squares
2 large glass bowls, a very large pan with lid, large seive, colander, large wooden spoon,
40 elderflower heads, size of your hand, or equivalent in smaller heads
3 litres filtered water
2 of 500 gram packs of fairtrade white sugar
200 grams of unrefined golden sugar
88 grams Citric Acid powder (order online unless you want to be treated as a potential threat)
2 large oranges
5 lemons unwaxed

First Day:
Bring 2.5 litres water to boil in large pan. Remove from heat, add sugars, stir to dissolve with wooden spoon. Cover pan with clean cloth, leave to cool. Collect elderflowers. Rinse and strain as above. When the sugar water is cold, stir in citric acid to dissolve. Add the pollen water and sediment. Wash the fruit and thickly pare the lemons, add to sugar water, then top and tail, discard these ends and then finely slice the fruits and pop into the sugar water. Top and tail the oranges, thinly slice and add to sugar water. Stir. Add the elderflower heads a few at a time and stir round. The pan should be full. Bring up a few fruit slices to sit on top of the elderflower heads to keep them in the liquid. Cover the pan and set aside somewhere cool for 24 hours, stirring occasionally and carefully to minimise splashes of sticky sugar water.

Next Day:
Put the clean muslin unfolded in sieve over a large glass bowl, the muslin to overlap the bowl.
Carefully tip the large pan of elderflower heads and fruit in the sugar water over the muslin in the sieve. Gather up the corners of the muslin to form a bag in the sieve, lift sieve clear off the cordial in the bowl, and let all the liquid drip through the muslin, squeezing the last drips.
This is your cordial. This liquid feels like water when splashed, but it is very sticky and gets everywhere. Cover the liquid while you deal with the elderflower head mash; into a plastic bag, tied to keep out wasps, binned. Rinse the muslin to remove anything left, then launder as above.
Then jug the cordial into your preferred storage, plastic bottles (not more than two-thirds full) or ice cube bags, and freeze immediately, saving some to drink immediately. Defrost bottles overnight in the fridge, keep refrigerated and drink within twenty four hours ... this should prevent any moulds forming and prevent anyone blaming me if they ingest toxins. If frozen in ice cube bags, just pop two frozen cubes of cordial into a glass and fill with cold water still or sparkling, or white wine if your medication allows alcohol.

Enjoy. Preferably outside in a warm breeze. In the tree shade if you too have Lupus.