A few years ago, I went elderflower picking with my mum. This resulted in her making some delicious and refreshing homemade cordial. Every May to June, when elderflower’s in abundance in Cornwall, I promise myself I’ll do the same. I’ve obviously waited a few years for the idea to imbue because this is the first time I’ve been elderflower picking since.
Running on the Cornish coast path has its advantages. It means I’ve clocked where elderflower’s growing and more importantly, whether or not I can reach it. I decided to trot down to the coast path from Pendower Beach, and enjoy a moment of elderflower picking.
Having been before with my mum, I’d recommend taking a traditional walking stick to hook around the branches. They can be hard to reach. In usual Penny style, left mine in car. No biggie thankfully, as I found some elderflower shrubs flowering at shoulder and head height (thank you, Mother Nature).
Walking along the Cornish coast path is always a joy. I’d already delayed the elderflower picking by a day as it was chucking it down. By the time I was outdoors for my little hike, the sun had started to shine. This only made me more eager to forage for elderflower.
Walking along the Cornish coast path from Pendower towards Porthscatho brought back memories from similar childhood walks with my Gran and sister. Further along, near Portloe, we’d traipse the coast path, run and play for what seemed like hours, until it was time to come home for tea. We even put on a Buck Fizz show on the coastpath once. You never know what you’re going to find! The views are never boring or disappointing. As the sun was out for my elderflower picking, Kernowfornia was glistening in all its glory.
The elderflower wasn’t hard to find. I walked about half a mile along the coastpath before I remembered I’d left my stick in the car. I recalled how, on a previous run, the elderflower would be hard to reach further along the coastpath. With that it mind, I returned to the opening of the path at Pendower where I’d already spotted some low elderflower, ready for picking.
A fair few walkers passed by as I was reaching and picking. They all asked me what I was going to make. One man asked if I was making elderflower champagne and my immediate thought was “Why didn’t I think of that?” One to remember for next time, I reckon. Another shared how he’d seen other people at the nearby village of Gerrans scaling a hedge in order to pick the best elderflower. I’m pleased I didn’t have to go to such efforts!
How I Made Elderflower Cordial
I’d already checked out some online recipes for elderflower cordial and had settled on using Jamie Oliver’s. I knew I only needed 15 elderflower heads to make 1 litre of cordial which didn’t seem that much when I was out. I probably picked double that, not that I was counting, and decided to double the recipe.
Once home, I removed the stalks and washed the elderflower. The elderflower needs to be used quickly as it’ll start to go brown. Once washed and bug free, I added the newly picked elderflower to some boiled water, with dissolved sugar and honey. I grated some zest and added some freshly squeezed lemon juice for good measure. The mixture was then left to do its thing for 24 hours before being strained in a muslin.
I was left with just over 2 bottles of golden cordial. I’ve drunk little else since making it. The elderflower cordial is both nectar sweet (not sickeningly so) and refreshing.
It’s satisfying foraging, picking and making your own food and drink. There’s something slow and relaxing about it. I’ve taken much joy from making something connected to wild nature, while it’s in season.
Have you ever made your own cordial, or foraged for something else? If so, what did you make? I’d love to hear your ideas.