Sunday, 5 July 2015

Elderflower foraging - A summer Immune boost

As mentioned before, daughter number 2 likes to call me the "white witch", namely because I like to make lotions and potions and am often found to be concocting something weird and wonderful. One of the things I like to do around this time of year is go picking Elderflower. At the moment In England, it is out in full force ....but maybe in other parts of the world it is over and done with for the year or doesn't even grow where you live. For those of you how are unfamiliar with Elderflower, it is known as a fantastic immune booster and is good for summer colds  and respiratory complaints (If you want to learn more about elderflower you can follow the link here).
I like to make a batch or two of cordial to keep in the fridge and use it if any sniffles arise in our household.  It's especially good for Heni to keep the bugs at bay! In  the past I've used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe (Here) but last year I made an elder flower glycerite (here) instead because I didn't like the idea of the amount of sugar the recipes usually contains. This  year I looked around for another version to try out and found a raw Elderflower tutorial on line. 

In the end I did a mix of recipes as you will see below.

First things first though. Where to find some Elderflower?
One morning last week, my running buddy Sarah and I decided to walk instead of run (lazy day). We did our usual loop through the woods....

.....and fields

....and picked some Elderflower on route from the hedgerows... It seems to be everywhere you look...

 It was a gorgeous, hot sunny morning... probably not the best time of day to pick them! Definitely too hot for Zac & Humphry who chose to wallow in the muddy puddles to cool off!

 We filled up a reasonable portion of the basket but needed a few more flower heads... so once we got back we picked some more from the hedge in Sarah's garden

...taking it in turn to try not fall off the huge ladder!

  We managed to get a good basket full!

 Once I returned back home again I got straight to work so that all the nutrition in the flowers could be transferred to the cordial.

 I shook the flower heads to get rid of any bugs and placed them in a bowl..... sometimes I use a fork to get all the tiny flower heads off the stalks. It is important to not use any of the leaves or thick stalks as these are toxic.

 I used two oranges and  a lemon and grated the skin  to add to the mixture pastry brush comes in handy to get the zest out of the grater!

After adding the zest to the flower heads I then added about a litre and half of hot water (didn't fully follow the raw video).

 .....Pressed the heads under the water to soak  

 ......and added about 15 dates to the mixture 

 ......before placing a clean cloth over the top of the bowl to sit and steep for a few days.

 Once the mixture had sat for  a while (about 48 -72 hours) I strained the flower heads through a sieve and muslin and added the juice from the orange and lemon to the mixture.

 Due to the lack of sugar content, I'm not exactly sure how long it will be preserved for so I  put some of the mixture in to our mickey mouse ice cube trays (we got them on our Disney trip years ago) to freeze. I used one of Heni's 20ml oral syringes (the perfect amount) to fill each of the mickey cubes.  Once frozen we can then put some in Heni's drinks as a medicinal boost for her if needed.

...I  put the rest in a bottle to be kept in the fridge to be used for "now". Here is one I made up below. It has  Elderflower "Cordial", water, cucumber, strawberry and lime.... you could probably throw some mint in there as well for an additional twist to the flavour!

The dates produce quite a brown coloured mixture compared to the more amber looking cordials I have made in the past..but once watered down it looks more appetizing. I would say that it's not as sweet as a "real" cordial...but then that is  why I made the raw version in the first place! If you need it a bit sweeter you could always add a bit of apple juice to taste. The drink reminds me of an iced herbal tea with a  nice hint of Elderflower flavour. It is a very refreshing drink and is probably more satisfying to me because of the process  we went though to get to the end result! With all those sniffles I can hear around me right now I am armed and ready to dose Heni and the rest of the family up...
.... well at least for a week or so until its all gone... nothing ever last that long in our household!


If you are out and about and see some Elderflower in the hedgerow, why not pick some and  make some cordial for yourself...if you can't find any, an iced herbal tea with some fruity additions could be a good substitution. Enjoy!

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