Monday, July 06, 2015

Elderflower and Rhubarb Cordial

One of my favorite things about Sweden is that old traditions and a connection to nature are still very much alive.  In a land of less than 10 million people, the population density of Sweden is among the very lowest in Europe (only Finland, Norway, Russia and Iceland are lower).  This means that there is plenty of land and it is very common for people to have a little cottage in the countryside. In late June and early July, you will find many at their summer houses making "saft" or cordial, particularly elderflower cordial.  Where our summer house is, in the west coast of Sweden, elderflower trees are everywhere and you can smell the flowers as you walk along most of the roads.

I was sitting in our garden two weeks ago with my friend Anna, and we chatted about whether the elderflower were ready and she gave me the idea to combine elderflower with rhubarb to add both flavor and sourness.  A traditional elderflower cordial recipe contains both citric acid and lemon, as the sour flavor goes really well with the elderflowers.  Rhubarb is also very sour and is ready in the garden as the same time, so it seems a natural combination.  A bonus is the lovely pink color.

Dilute the finished cordial with water for a lovely summer drink. Or why not add a dollop to a glass of champagne?

About 2 liters cordial
This is about 50 elderflower blooms.

2 liters water
1 kilo sugar
4 to 5 stalks of rhubarb
50 elderflower blooms
1 pinch sodium benzoat (one mililiter) (natriumbensoat)

In a large pot, put in the sugar and the water.  Bring the water to a boil and let cook until all the sugar is fully dissolved.  While the water is boiling, cut the rhubarb into pieces.  Once the sugar is dissolved, take the pot off the stove and add in the rhubarb, elderflower blooms, and the sodium benzoat and stir very well.

The sodium benzoat is a preservative.  You can leave it out, if you like, but then you should either keep the finished saft in the refrigerator or freeze it.  If you do use the sodiumbenzoat, do NOT add it to the water while you are boiling it. This can make your saft very bitter flavored.

Stir the mixture and put on a lid.  Leave the pot to sit in a cool room for 4 to 5 days and let the syrup infuse with the flavor of the rhubarb and flowers.  Strain out the rhubarb and elderflower by pouring the mixture through a fine sieve.  Decant into clean, sterilized bottles.  If you have used the preservative, the cordial can stand in the cupboard.  If not, then keep it in the refrigerator or freeze it in baggies.

To serve, dilute with water to taste.  Try a spoonful over vanilla icecream or in a glass of champagne.  It would also be nice in a gin fizz!

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