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Making elderflower cordial and living like a mad thing

Thursday 26 July 2012

One of my oldest and dearest friends is coming to stay with me this weekend, and I couldn't be more excited. When we first planned the visit, I had such plans for us. We were going to...

Jump on trampolines!
Go in hot tubs!
Eat sushi!
Drink champagne!
Go surfing!
Do crystal meth!

But then I remembered that she's pregnant, and we can't do ANY OF THAT. God.

It's a funny thing, an old friend having a baby. The girl you remember for completely ridiculous things is suddenly going to be a real live grown up. Suddenly, I'm terrified. I keep checking the house for things that could harm her, or Cletus the Foetus (she came up with that, not me)

I'm worried about a lot of things - that the dog might jump up on her, that I might hug her too tight and push the baby out of her back, and that when the baby's born she'll like him more than me. I'm worried that I won't be able to entertain her properly when she comes.

In reality, we're going to do what we always do - sit around, walk the dog, eat a LOT of food and laugh. The only thing I'll be doing that she won't, is drinking cava.

With that in mind, I thought I'd make her something special so she wouldn't feel left out. I took the dog for a little walk, and spotted a million elderflowers growing in the hedgerows. Aha! I thought. Elderflower cordial. I can make her a little batch and mix it with sparkling water, put it in a champagne flute and everything will be just like old times.

I did check (four times) that what I picked are actually elderflowers. They are, and they look like this...

I've never made it before, but it looks easy enough. What can go wrong, hey?

I decided to go with the recipe on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's website, mostly because he's a gigantic ride and I have a huge crush on him at the moment.

First off, I put all of the elderflowers in a bowl, picking out the stems, leaves and tiny bugs.

Added the zest of a lime, lemon and an orange...

And steeped in 1.5 litres of water.

Then I covered the bowl in cling film, and left it to sit for 24 hours.

The next day, I strained the liquid through muslin into a saucepan...

...before adding the juice of the orange, lime and lemon. To this I added about 400g of sugar. The recipe called for 1kg, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that. This does mean that my cordial is less of a syrup, but I can live with that. A whole kilo of sugar is madness.

After a quick boil to dissolve the sugar, I poured the hot liquid into sterilised bottles. Initially, I only had one, which was pretty silly of me. I had to run out to the shed to find another. Luckily, there are always empty wine bottles close to hand.

And there you have it. Elderflower cordial. I'll give it to my friend with sparkling water, ice and some lime wedges. While her boyfriend and I drink tequila on the trampoline.

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