Saturday, 14 May 2011

Spring Hedgerow Harvest

Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend Jane and her two bouncy cockapoos, Daisy and Dolly...

...who are never still long enough to take a decent photo!

We went to a place Mr U-t-B and I discovered last year close to the Basingstoke Canal.  It's a secret hideaway of a place, with roads that peter out into fords of pond-sized proportions,  'Unsuitable for Motor Vehicle' signs and a wooden swing bridge over the canal that I wouldn't want to trust with your car.  This quiet backwater makes you feel like you have stepped back in time.  There are some beautiful houses to gawp at, from the entirely grand... the slightly more manageable... the quaint.

But this one is the one I probably like the best!

To add to the 'Step Back in Time' feel, look what will be taking place on May 30th at the local pub...

Love the idea of a Bread Pudding Competition!

This lamp-post in the middle of nowhere is rather Narnia-esque...

The canal was looking rather murky, but the swans and cygnets seemed happy. 

There were lots of bright yellow irises at the margins of the water...

And pretty meadows full of buttercups and cowparsley...

Anyway, the purpose of this walk (not that there needed to be one) was to do a bit of hunting in the hedgerows.

But what was I hunting for?

I was hunting for some blossom. 

But not this pretty honeysuckle on the unreachable-other-side of the canal...

  Nor these magnificent pom-poms...

 ...with their delicately tinged with palest pink petals...

Snowball viburnum or Vibrnum opulus var. opulus (I think)

Not this deep pink hawthorn...

Nor this pretty white stuff...

Viburnum opulus or Guelder Rose (again, I  think!)


What I was looking for was this...

For the past few years I have honed my elderflower spotting skills
and I can now spot it at a hundred paces! 

Its particular shade of white is like no other and once I've spotted it I get 
all kind of drool-y at the thought of the concocting to come.

Because elderflower means Elderflower Cordial, 
the essential (non-alcoholic) taste of summer 
(Pimms being the other one).  

So as we walked we gathered a few heads of fully-open elderflower blossom.  Once we were back in the car, their aroma overpowered even the scent of damp dogs!

Back home I assembled the ingredients needed for a Sophie Grigson recipe:

  • 20 heads of elderflower
  • 1.8 kg granulated sugar, or caster sugar
  • 1.2 litres water
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 75 g citric acid 

  • NB: Citric acid can be hard to get - I got mine from a home brewing shop, but chemists and Asian supermarkets should have it too.

It then goes together very quickly - pare the rind off the lemons (I use the potato peeler for this), slice up the lemons (discarding the ends), shake any bugs out of the blossom and place it all in a bowl.

Then make a sugar syrup and pour the boiling hot liquid over the contents of the bowl, then stir in the citric acid.

Leave for twenty-four hours before pouring into sterile bottles.

Liquid sunshine!

We'd picked a few more heads than needed so I remembered the effervescent Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall making Elderflower Champagne last year and decided to give his recipe a spin!

There are all sorts of dire warnings about this on t'internet, so if I end up with my utility room splattered with sweetly scented sticky stuff I may rue the day!

I'll let you know how it goes!


  1. I love the little cottage, Thanks so much for the recipes, I made elderflower cordial years ago, it's delicious, so you have inspired me to make some more. Good luck, with the champane!! xx

  2. What a fab walk and I fancy the elderflower cordial - dilute pop - as we call it here in south yorkshire of if you are really common you just say dilute. I havent noticed any elderflowers yet around here will have a look on my way to my friends this morning. I know a cockerpoo called Stanley and he is super cute - and very active! His Daddy doesn't like it when you call him a cocker poo - don't know why perhaps he doesnt like calling a spade a spade. Have a good weekend - hope hubby is ok. Love debs x

  3. What a lovely post. I love that cottage, I could quite happily sit there in the garden with a glass of pimms! xxxxx

  4. I was really pleased to see this post. I had set myself the task of making elderflower cordial for the first time this year - so your recipe is very welcome. Unfortunately my elderflower blossom is not quite ready for picking yet. Thanks