With the passing of the summer solstice, followed by Sant Joan (23rd June) celebrated here in Catalonia, the heat of a Catalan summer is with us.  And what better way to sate one’s thirst than by drinking a glass of homemade elderflower cordial.

From the front entrance of La Rectoria, along the via verde cycle path, down to the main road and almost wherever one cares to look, Elder trees can be found both in our Vall d’Hostoles and the neighbouring Vall d’En Bas.  Their floral umbrels announce themselves almost as the second symphony of colour of spring from early May until early June, following the earlier flowering pear and plum blossoms.

Elderflower umbrels, scented with Spring

 

Some three years ago we made our first batch of elderflower cordial and found it relatively easy to make and most refreshing to drink.  And as I spend the better part of the day in the kitchen before, during and after the summer, day in, day out, this cordial provides a fantastic pick me up.

How easy to make?  Well, we start by grabbing our re-useable shopping bag, the telescopic gardening shears and out the door we go.  You will see from the recipe that follows that 15 flowers are needed – which yields about 1 litre of cordial when made.   We have learnt with time how much we use over the course of the summer and therefore we generally make 3 times the recipe on each occasion.  So, over the following half hour stroll we gather 45+ umbrels prior to returning home.

Elderflower cordial in the making

Now to the recipe.  Mine is taken from ‘Sensational Preserves’ by Hilaire Walden, a fantastic reference on all fruit and vegetable related preserves that now serves me well along with Mother’s recipe for Orange Marmalade and that now family heirloom, the old jam pan.  The book itself has its own heritage as I bought it at ‘The Cooks Bookshop’, 118 West Bow, Grassmarket, Edinburgh, owned and run by the late Clarissa Dickson Wright, https://www.theguardian.com/…/clarissa-dickson-wright-tv-chef-dies-two-fat-ladies  who found fame in the highly proclaimed TV cookery show ‘Two Fat Ladies’.   So thank you Clarissa for bringing this book to my attention and to Hilaire for the bounties its pages contain.

So here goes…

Elderflower Cordial

(makes about 1.1 litres, 2 pints)

15 large elderflower umbrels

900g sugar

1 lemon, sliced

40 citric acid (ask at your chemist)

500ml boiling water

Put the elderflowers, sugar, lemons and citric acid in a large heatproof bowl.  Stir in the boiling water to dissolve the sugar.  Cover (I do with cling film) and leave in a cool place for 4 days.  Lift the cover every day and stir.

On the fourth day, stain the liquid through muslin, (I use a jelly bag www.lakeland.co.uk) and carefully pour into bottles.  Store in a cool, dry place.

To dilute, the ratio is close to 1:20 cordial to water as it is very concentrated.  Dilute with chilled water for maximum benefit.

Chilled cordial. Stirred, never shaken

I use the concentrated cordial as a syrup to garnish dessert plates and also to make Elderflower Sorbet….more of that another day.

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On getting up each morning, freshened up and dressed my first act is to take Bismarck for his first walk of the day.  Our giant schnauzer takes a bit of getting going, with a big stretch of the back, then his massive fore and hind legs, he ambles with a spring in his step towards the door.

Even though it is May, it is still quite fresh as the sun comes up.  And as we step on to ‘La ruta del Carrilet’, the vie verde path adjacent to the house, Bismarck and I are greeted by the cats, Dolly our blonde Parton look alike and McGonagall the ginger.

Dawn on La Ruta el Carrilet - Maig 2014

Dawn on La Ruta el Carrilet – Maig 2014

The chill morning air catches the face washing away any lingering reminents of sleep. As the four of us make our way up the old railway the new light that rises over the hills of La Garrotxa penetrates the fresh foliage of the trees and birdsong fills the woods.  If you are lucky you might catch sight of a red squirrel, roe deer, wild boar and all manner of creepy crawlies at ground level.

La ruta el Carrilet Maig 2104

La ruta el Carrilet Maig 2104

 

Looking down Vall d'Hostoles from el Carrilet - Maig 2014

Looking down Vall d’Hostoles from el Carrilet – Maig 2014

Ours is a short brisk walk prior to breakfast and commencing the tasks of the day, but it provides a ‘space’ both in which to think and to marvel.  The latter is a daily joy as with each day small perceptable changes occur – yesterday it was the wild sweetpea up by the field that caught my attention, pink and fragile clinging to the plants around it.   Now however, if sunny it is the light that amazes; funnelling down the corridor of trees that line the path forming curtains of light on the banks of the path.  The sunlight magnifies the contrast in the many shades of green in the leaves of the trees, grasses and wild flowers.  Let the photos complete the picture for you and the serenity that awaits you here in La Garrotxa.

 

Curtain of light on el Carrilet

Curtain of light on el Carrilet

 

Light and foliage - Maig 2014

Light and foliage – Maig 2014