By Ann M. Evans
Gathering wild flowers to preserve the season is one of life’s great pleasures and is automatic membership in the time-honored gatherer’s tribe. Harvest flower heads in full cream-colored bloom, not heads that are brown, drooping, or with unopened green buds. Cut flower heads with a minimum of stem and place in a paper bag. Pick in the morning and process immediately, or at least the same day to preserve fragrance. Place the bag in refrigerator until you are ready to process.
10 cups water
10 cups sugar
40 flower heads (yield approximately 8 cups of flowers)
1 lemon (Eureka or Lisbon, not Meyer)
2 tablespoons citric acid powder (food grade)
Chinois (conical sieve) or medium size fine, wire-mesh strainer
Glass bottles with lids – about 13-14 cups worth
Putting it Together
In a large, non-reactive pot over high heat, add the water and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat down to medium, and cook for another 5 minutes, producing a simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar). Remove the pan from the heat and let syrup cool.
While syrup is cooling, prepare the flowers. Do not wash the heads or flowers as this removes the fragrance. Shake each head to dislodge particulate matter such as small bugs (any still remaining will come out in straining the syrup.) Using scissors, snip off as much of the stem as possible, leaving just the flowers (the stems are bitter and slightly toxic) and place in a large bowl. Sort through the snipped flowers once again, cutting off any overlooked larger stems.
Zest and juice the lemon and add to flower mixture. Pour the cooled syrup over the flowers and lemon. Add the citric acid powder. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flowers and syrup thoroughly. Refrigerate for 48-60 hours, stirring occasionally.
To bottle the cordial, begin with pouring the syrup through a Chinois or strainer into a large bowl. When all the cordial has been strained, place 2 layers of cheesecloth over the Chinoise or strainer. Run the cordial through the cheesecloth two times to ensure removal of all particulate matter. Using a funnel, pour cordial into glass bottles, fasten with a lid, label, and store in refrigerator until ready to use. The cordial will last a year in the refrigerator.
To serve, dilute cordial with sparkling water to taste and serve over ice. For an alcoholic drink, add gin or vodka to taste, or other liquor of choice. Cordial can also be added to sparkling wine for a refreshing summer before dinner drink.
Yield: 5 quarts