Monday night preserving – elderflower cordial

After a crazy week of work, we had a fabulous weekend with friends and family letting our hair down. More about that during the week as tonight is all about preserving for me.
June is the month of the elderflower here. We’ve been patiently waiting for the flowers to open and be fresh and healthy, before they go over and we wait patiently again for the elderberries that follow. The weather of the last few days has been perfect for picking elder flowers. We are lucky to have loads of elder trees around here which we found last year.
So as usual, off my little family trooped and gathered enough heads to loosely fill 2 carrier bags. Classy or what?

No one else ever comes here for any foraging, not a soul in sight.
Back home we shook off any bugs and put them in a large saucepan with the zest of 2 oranges and 4 lemons then poured just boiled water over them until covered.

I left the saucepan overnight with a fly cover on to keep it clean whilst it cooled. Then I strained it whilst I sterilised the bottles in the usual way of washing in hot soapy water and drying in the slow cooker.

For every 500ml of liquid we added 350g sugar, a teaspoon citric acid and 50ml of lemon juice. I simmered it at 90c before cooling and straining it again once cool enough. We made enough for 4 litres of cordial.
Now interestingly, the cordial colour was nothing like last years. It looked almost black in the pan and I think that’s because I used a pan and not a bucket. However if you make it and it looks dark and awful, stick with it as it came good in the end.
I water bathed those which I will keep to Christmas gifts.

They turned out great and it tastes delicious!

The rhubarb wine is now in Demi johns bubbling away so once I decant it into bottles I will do the post about it.

More additions! Animals and veg!

I would like to introduce you to our very own smallholding chicks.  Now we’ve had chicks before and grown and eaten some however, these are different!  They were eggs from our own hens which were fertilised by our own cockerel.  The eggs we’ve had before we’ve bought in.  So we have been doing a merry dance in achieving (well we didn’t actually do much!) our own home raised chicks.  These guys were incubated as we don’t have a broody hen and we have 12 all together of 20 eggs.  Considering we weren’t even sure Big Red was having any luck, this is a huge success! 
I had my first sungold tomato fresh off the vine and it was delicious.  We’re harvesting strawberries every few days and the raspberries are showing their glowing red faces.  The currants are still trying to develop before the birds take them and I have a feeling this one will be a losing battle this year.  Fruit cages next year I think.
The local supermarket had iceberg lettuces on offer so I bought a load in for the hens and we tied them up to keep the hens entertained.  The rescue girls weren’t interested at all but the old ones went through 2 in no time.  I have been told hens love natural yoghurt and it’s good for them so I will be getting them a tub of that to try soon. 
As planned, this weekend we harvested some Elderflowers and I set about making cordial.  It was my first attempt and I must say I was very impressed.  It tastes very refreshing.  It will take some time to get used to it over supermarket drinks (squash) for the kids as they are so used to the sugar, sadly.  Although Elderflower cordial has sugar in it, I’m sure it’s 100% better for you than every day squash.
When we went to the farmers auction on Saturday, we had a great time and learnt a lot.  We came away with 12 Jersey Giant fertile eggs which will be going in the incubator tonight or tomorrow (we have 1 eggs left in there which I don’t think is going to hatch), a Buff Orpington cockerel (now called Henry VIII) which we’ve been looking for one for a while and 3 brown hens for laying.  They are young healthy birds and have fit right in with Big Red’s flock.
At the farmers auction we enjoyed some home made pies, sausage rolls and some rather poor sausage buns.  The home made stuff was fab, the sausage bun was cheap and tasteless.  You live and learn.
Finally I managed to give the pantry a good sort out so we know where everything is and the shelves are nice and clean, ready for the strawberry jam I’m making tonight with out 1kg of strawberries harvested yesterday.  YUM.

Chicks a couple of days old.
Apologies for the blurry pic, this is the auction about to start (eggs in this room).

Another cheeky face enjoying a steak pie.  My everything ❤
Our selection from the farmers auction.  Girls are in the washing basket and cockerel in the Port a Pet

 
Cheeky, how did she get in here.  Also my everything ❤

Seconds old 🙂

One of the new brown hens.  Clipping wings before putting out with the other girls and Big Red.
Elderflower cordial being made

My first sungold tomato!  In fact, my first EVER tomato!

Rescue girls wondering what on earth the green ball is 😀
Bored by the green ball
 
 

Strawberries are coming thick and fast.  There runners are too!
Spot the raspberry?

Our old faithful hens who we brought with us that laid the eggs which are now the chicks.  Big Red in the top next to the tree.

The new chicks at 1-2 days old

Meet Henry VIII the Buff Orpington cockerel (and my husband Steven :D)