Wild Summer flower cordial and Pine needle cordial

Wild summer flower cordial

elderflowerAfter a quick discussion with Leo from my favourite cafe. The Duchess of Totterdown in Bristol, I found myself out picking wild flowers around Arno’s Vale and Totterdown so they could serve a localy sourced wild summer flower cordial as part of their summer menu.

I have to say it was a fairly blissful activity as foraging often is, but knowing that I was doing it for someone else who’d be making the cordial with their (now grown up) son gave it real purpose, on top of that it was the first time that Loki  (my 8 month old son) has paid any attention to my foraging antics which he found rather amusing.

Much of the elderflower had gone over, but we managed to find some in more sheltered areas that were still viable. Instead, I found myself picking red clover, wild rose petals, sow thistles (similar to dandelion) and rosebay willow herb flowers. As long as there are enough rosebay willow herb and red clover flowers this will mean that the resulting cordial will be a luscious girly pink colour, suitable for a duchess. About half a cup is enough. The few rose petals give a sweeter floral flavour that compliments the elder. In all I feel that a wild summer flower cordial is better than a straight elderflower cordial in both colour and flavour, but try for yourself!

Wild flower Cordial

Himalyan balsamIf you wish to make your own I really wouldn’t be too prescriptive about how many flowers you use, a hand full of what you find will be fine. In short you are making a syrup that is delicately flavoured with flowers.

Do however, make sure you know what flowers you are picking I have known people to mistake foxglove flowers for Himalayan balsam and pick ragwort rather than sow thistle. Also avoid some of the more bitter flavoured flowers. It can be a good idea to make a small infusion to test the flowers taste before using. Simply pour 10mls of hot water over a few petals in a tea cup and taste.

Ingredients

A pint glass full of your favourite wild edible flowers with all the green bit removed  or for a really floral drink, two pint glasses. (red clover, elderflower, dandelion, sow thistle, wild rose petals, rosebay willow herb, Himalayan balsam are all good choices)
1 sliced lemon
2 tsp of citric acid (OR the juice of a lemon)
1.5 kg/3 lbs of sugar
1.2 litre/2.5 pints boiling water

Equipment

Small bucket/fermentation bin
Muslin/cheesecloth

Method

Place all of the ingredients in a sterilized small bucket. Pour over the boiling water and stir until you can no longer feel the crunch of undissolved sugar at the bottom of your bucket. Some scum may arise and this should be skimmed off.  Cover with a tea towel or pillow case. Stir now and again over the next 12 hours and then strain through a piece of muslin/cheese cloth into sterile bottles and refrigerate. It is ready to drink immediately and should be diluted to taste. It makes an excellent mixed and goes well with gin.

As with any cordial without preservatives they can have a habit of fermenting, especially in warm weather. This could mean exploding bottles, refrigeration will calm this down as will using a good steraliser such as star san.

Pine Needle Cordial

Andy Hamilton picking pine needles

Nothing like a toilet

When you read most recipes either in a book or online there will be a preamble about it before the author goes into detail about the recipe. That is this bit the bit that gets your tastebuds ready, however there probally won’t be many authors that will tell you that the trouble with their coridal is that the smell might remind you of pine fresh toilet blocks. This is an unfortunate truth about pine (I blame Flash liquid too), however, once you get over that and start to think of the resinous delicate botanical flavours in a good gin instead you might start to forget the toilet block and instead think of a patch of pine tree growing atop an alpine path, a Scottish woodland or a Scandinavian paradise. Pine needle cordial is indeed delious and ridicously simply to make.  Just pick the youngest freshest needles and they will be full of flavour.

Ingredients

50g/2 oz Pine needles
2 tsp Citric Acid
225g Sugar
500ml Boiling water

Equipment

Saucepan
Large Bowl

Method

Put the pine needles into a bowl along with the citric acid and sugar. Pour over boiling water, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight. Decant into sterilized bottles.

Variations – 125ml/Half a cup of edible flowers such as Himalayan balsam, elderflower or dandelion can be added to the mix for colour and added flavour.  As with many recipes once shared they are developed, award winning chief and friend Leona Williams (of St Werburghs city farm cafe) adds a thumb sized piece of ginger along with edible flowers which works amazingly well.

 In case you somehow missed it, Andy is the author of Booze for Free, the best selling guide to making wines, beers, cordials and teas from wild and cultuvated plants.

Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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7 Responses

  1. emma says:

    love your recipes! love how it gets you thinking and inspired. love that your local and i can relate to where you are which makes it more achievable! love your childs name too!

  2. Steve Phillips says:

    Hi Andy,

    I have just made some Pine Needle cordial and am checking up on the bottling stage. Can you confirm if the pine needles get removed first, only there is no mention of any straining before bottling?

  3. Joolz Webb says:

    Great ideas for cordials – thanks. I once had a glass of Rosebay Willowherb champagne similar to Elderflower but using the pink Rosebay flowers instead. I didnt get the exact recipe, do you have any suggestions regarding quantity of flowers to use? Or do I just do like for like?

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      It’s easy to get a bit too bothered about exact recipes, I’d use like for like and it will be fine. You could even use a bit more if you can get hold of enough flowers.

  1. July 11, 2016

    […] Needle cordial is incredibly simple to make – the recipe can be found here on Andy Hamilton’s web site; it is taken from his excellent book – Booze for […]

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