Makes about 3 litres

A mix of elderflowers and rhubarb for a cordial is delicious and a great drink to make in Orkney where rhubarb is much more plentiful than elderflowers. Our elderflowers are ready for picking in early July when our rhubarb is still going strong. Try serving this neat as an ice cream sauce. If you are a whisky drinker, it is great diluted with a lightly peated dram and a splash of tonic…

Print the recipe here

Perfect with a lunch of mackerel pate and sourdough, the cordial is delicious tonic water and ice

• 750g prepared rhubarb

• 30 elderflower heads

• 2 lemons and 1 orange

• 75g tartaric acid (available at home brew shops)

• 1.75 kilos granulated sugar

1. Prepare the rhubarb at least 2 hours before you gather your elderflowers, and ideally the day before. Slice the rhubarb quite finely and bring it to the boil in a pan with 200ml of water. Cover and cook slowly for 20-25 mins, or until very soft, then strain through a muslin-lined colander or sieve, or a jelly bag, into a large bowl or plastic box.

2. Gather the elderflowers as early in the morning as you can on a warm still day (in Orkney?!) when they will be at their most fragrant. Turn them out onto a work surface when you get home and any insects gathered as well will run away! Snip away any thick stalks then place the heads in the container with the rhubarb syrup.

3. Slice the lemons and orange thinly and add them with the tartaric acid and the sugar.

4. Boil 1.5 litres of water and pour it into the container – it is important to have the sugar over the elderflowers so that they don’t scald in the first heat from the water. Stir thoroughly then leave to cool, stir again and cover.

5. Refrigerate for 5 days, stirring every day.

6. Strain through a muslin lined colander or sieve, or a jelly bag and discard the fruit. Pour the cordial into sterilised bottles or clean plastic milk containers and seal. I usually freeze my cordials and then keep them in the fridge, once defrosted, for up to 2 months.

The steeping mix

Top Tips:

• I use tartaric acid in cordials which comes from grapes and gives an extra roundness of flavour. It is more usual to add citric acid – and if you have that do use it – but I’m adding citric acid with the lemons and orange and like the extra oomph of the tartaric acid. I used 50g and not 75g in my latest batch as that was the size of the tub – and it was quite expensive…

• Re-using old bottles is great but do wash them thoroughly, several times.