Blog Header

Blog Header

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Elderflower cordial and strawberry conserve

Preserving time has come around again! The elder trees are groaning under the weight of the flowers this year and there are tons in just my orchard alone, a far cry from last year when I had to scout around all the neighbourhood wild trees to find enough to make cordial last year, and later on to pick the berries for jelly.

I picked the flowers early at the end of May when the first ones were open and still the trees are full of flowers.

The tree in my orchard must be 12 foot high now

Mmmmmm there's nothing lovelier than the smell of an elder flower, yet in the blink of an eye that smell can change to something that resembles cat's pee. Anyone who has ever picked elder flowers or just had a sniff of the flowers on a late spring walk will know what I am talking about!

An open head of Elder flowers with one in bud behind it.

My trug full and ready to do the business. I follow Sophie Grigson's recipe here.

Picked elder flowers

I only added 50g of citric acid because that's the size of the packet I bought - but as I freeze the cordial in marge tubs there's probably no need to actually add it, as it acts as a preservative if you are bottling the cordial.

All prepped and ready for the sugar syrup to be poured on

This is where I hang all my jelly bags to drip!
(and no it was not me who chose tiled kitchen work surfaces -
I absolutely HATE that, just inherited it with the house.)

Et voila! All that needs doing is either bottling up or putting in small containers in the freezer. It's sooooo simple!

I also have a super easy recipe for Strawberry Conserve. That's a posh name for jam but it's what it was called in the recipe I use. This comes from a book called "The Art of Preserving" by Jan Berry (no pun intended, I am sure!). I'm probably really not supposed to do this with her recipe but I'm not going to type it out!

From "The Art of Preserving" by Jan Berry

Because it is done over 4 days it makes it seem easy as the work is spread out.

Prepping the strawbs on day one

I did boil for longer than the 8 minutes stated in the recipe but I was using 2 kilos which is rather a lot more than in the recipe. (Mine took about 16 mins and I did the saucer wrinkle test to check on setting point). I really would not bother with all this with a mere 250g of berries. That just wouldn't be worth the hassle and frankly I'd rather just eat the strawbs! 2 kilos makes 6-7 jam jars worth.

I love my Bonne Maman jars! They get reused time and again.
Can you see my reflection in the Le Parfait bocal on the right? :-)
(Don't know the English for bocal/bocaux! -
preserving jar with rubber seal and clippy lid is a bit of a mouthful)

Et voila again! I don't do any of this water bath business with jam - it's just not something that's done in Britain (I don't think the French do either). So long as you put your hot jam into clean hot sterilised jars there is absolutely no need, as all that sugar acts as a preservative anyway. Even when my jar lids don't go pop and seal as they cool down I've still never, ever, had a problem with mould, and I have made one heck of a lot of jam and jelly since I moved here!


  1. Picked flowers from elder tree this week and couldn't find the citric acid so will have to go to the chemist tomorrow. Never frozen cordial - I might try that.

  2. yeh we freeze the cordial when we have the space, and the rest of the time it lives in the fridge.

    citric acid can be bought online.. which makes a nonsense out of all the fuss chemists make over selling it!

    huge fan of elderflowers here :)

  3. I buy the citric acid in Superdrug when I'm in England and nobody has ever questioned me about it! Sandra if you have the freezer space it's easy but just freeze in small amounts so you can defrost a bottle's worth at a time, which can then live in the fridge.

  4. Eat the good strawberries immediately! Jam the squishier ones!

    Perhaps Elder trees are like citrus (and some other fruit trees) that alternate crop volume (one season with a large crop followed by one season with a small crop).


  5. Saw a mouse run out from under the strawberry netting yesterday - I fear for the worst. Still if I get any I will definitely be jamming - nothing nicer than strawberries in November.

  6. Doug we've so many strawbs at the moment that the chickens get the squishy ones! I'm not sure that elder trees suffer like that (I know what you mean), it could well be due to the fact that last year it was really dry from Jan thru' to early June and perhaps that's why they didn't develop very well.

    Sarah - hello! Nice to see you here. Cross fingers your mouse hasn't managed to eat all of them!

  7. I'm not sure how long you can really keep it out of the freezer, but my friend gave me some of the elderflower cordial she made two years ago the other day (not frozen). We tried it rather gingerly but it a) did not make us remotely ill and b) was DELICIOUS!! We had it in tonic water which was surprisingly good. I daresay it would be even better with a slug of gin... Shame we've got no elder trees really.

  8. 2 years - that's quite amazing! I wonder if it is the citric acid which helps with the keeping then. I've had fruit cordial go off after just 2 weeks in the fridge but it had no citric acid in.

    Suggest you go round the neighbourhood/wherever you can find some elders in the autumn, collect some berries and fling them around your hedgerows. They come up like weeds when you do have them cos the birds eat the berries then poop them out all over the place!

  9. I'm so jealous! My elder tree has just come into flower, but I can't reach the flowers to harvest (the brambles and nettles underneath don't help). We're watching our strawberries ripening but never get to actually eat them because the slugs get there first :(

    1. That's a shame Rachel. Can you at least hack back the brambles so that next year you can get to them? I have to keep both brambles and nettles at bay around my tree in the orchard - it's got so big now that last year I had to get the stepladders out to pick the flowers. This year there have been so many flowers it wasn't necessary as there were plenty low down as well and the trees are still flowering which is quite incredible!