Wild Summer flower cordial and Pine needle cordial
The wildflower cordial was a spin off from my pine needle cordial a drink that is often served in the award-winning Ethecurean Resturant. The idea for it came after a quick discussion about wild cordials with Leo from my favourite cafe The Duchess of Totterdown in Bristol. Inspired, I then found myself out picking wildflowers around Arno’s Vale and Totterdown so they could serve a locally 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 willowherb 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!
If 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.
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
Small bucket/fermentation bin
Place all of the ingredients in a sterilised 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/cheesecloth 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 steriliser such as star san.
Pine Needle Cordial
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 taste buds ready, however, there probably won’t be many authors that will tell you that the trouble with their cordial is that the smell might remind you of pine fresh toilet blocks. This is an unfortunate truth about pine (I blame Flash liquid too).
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 a pine tree growing atop an alpine path, a Scottish woodland or a Scandinavian paradise. Pine needle cordial is indeed delicious and ridiculously simple to make. Just pick the youngest freshest needles and they will be full of flavour.
50g/2 oz Pine needles
2 tsp Citric Acid
500ml Boiling water
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 sterilised 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 work 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 cultivated plants.