Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Making Elderflower Cordial

I am a relatively new Wiccan (last couple of years) and one of the things I am trying to do this year is mark each sabbat with some kind of appropriate ritual. I am not doing marvellously well so far, as I keep having a failure of imagination, and then we end up just lighting a candle and focusing on it. And I have to ask partner to light the candle as I am scared of matches (I am, really) and he can be quite sarcastic. Anyway, for the summer solstice (I am preparing in advance) I am making elderflower cordial to use in some kind of ritual. Because if anything is the taste of midsummer, it is elderflower cordial. The ritual may end up being, drink the elderflower cordial and say ‘hooray, it’s the summer solstice’, but even if we get no further than that I think it is a good way to celebrate. So, today I have been out foraging for elderflowers in Milton Country Park. Because I am scared of the whole concept of foraging and secretly feel I will be arrested, I have been doing a number of recces to see where the elderflower trees are. Well, I hadn’t found all that many, but today I went with my secateurs and there seemed to be hundreds, so clearly today was the day to do it (but there were also loads of police! I don’t know what had happened, but they didn’t arrest me, so they clearly had higher priorities than a shifty-looking woman snipping furtively at trees.)

In case you want to do this yourself but are unsure what an elderflower tree looks like, there is one I photographed earlier at the top of this post. (If I am wrong and it isn’t, please let me know. I am saving some of the cordial for my brother who is being brave enough to host a Family Gathering in July, and let me assure you that at the moment it wouldn’t be a good thing for him to be innocently giving aged relatives anything hallucinogenic.) The trees didn’t seem to have any scent when I was snipping them, but when I got the flowers home they were quite heady. I am following this recipe from Self-Sufficientish, which is one of my favourite websites, and it seems to be going well so far. Here are the flowers when I had put them in my multi-purpose large pan (I encouraged the larger of the beetles to relocate elsewhere):

And here is the mixture when I had added the lemon, sugar, citric acid, and water:

They sell citric acid in chemists, and it is not expensive. I think mine was £1.20 and it seems to last a while so you probably don’t have to buy it new every year (you only need a bit). I must now leave my cordial for five days, stirring it twice a day, and then I strain it and bottle/ freeze it. I think I may freeze some to have with champagne at the Winter Solstice.

And to end, a preview of what I’ve been working on today:

As I cut these fabrics out, I progressed through these thoughts: Oh God this isn’t going to look right/ Oh God they look rubbish next to each other/ Bugger, I will have to buy another colour to pull them together/ Oh I can’t even be bothered to finish/ Wow! It looks amazing!/ I won’t want to sell it!

It’s strange how you don’t entirely know what patchwork is going to look like until you’ve actually got everything cut out and arranged. I imagine that’s very good psychologically for people who are controlling, like me.


lalheg said...

I love foraging when I get the chance - can only recognise basic fruits and definitely not fungi apart from some obviously poisonous ones!

I made elderberry jelly last year and still have a jar and a half left - what a treat! Your cordial looks fab in the pan. I'm surprised you could buy citric acid - I was told that it's used to creat drugs so is more restricted now - you can't have looked like a dodgy type!

As for the patchwork - dig that 70s vibe man! Looking forward to seeing the end result

p.s. I'm Artygal on Ravelry, not just a totally random bod

Susie said...

Hello Artygal ;-)

Your elderberry jelly sounds fantastic, I must have a go at some next year. Yes they didn't seem to mind selling me the citric acid, but I used to buy meths for our fondue burner and I used to get some suspicious looks with that.

Silver said...

We made an elderflower "champagne" with a similar recipe (citrus, sugar, etc.) a few years ago and it was irrationally sweet, but it did seem to improve with age. :D

That photo looks like I expect elderflower to look, although I admit I haven't stood by and compared it to the lookalikes to make sure I can tell the difference. Do you have water hemlock there? I can't seem to find any really good photos of it for comparitive purposes, but it seems like that's the least amusing elderflower lookalike:

When we made our champagne, we took it from plants that I'd seen go through their fruiting stage, and water hemlock berries don't look anything like elderberries, so I didn't have to worry about that. ;)

Love that patchwork train of thought, too. ;D It reminds me of what happens on the rare occasion that I design a dress or shirt, which usually results in something I design carefully, sew on blind faith, and looks like a sack on the hanger, but looks great on whoever it was designed for. Also a bit of a leap of faith, especially if the person it was designed for isn't around to try it on a lot...

Susie said...

Yes, my cordial seems a bit sweet - I haven't tried it properly yet so hopefully it won't be too bad. That water hemlock sounds scary...

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