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Tom Wrigglesworth recalls his elderflower cordial debacle

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 April 2017

Tom Wrigglesworth

Tom Wrigglesworth

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Spring could be back with a bang if you follow the Wrigglesworth family recipe for elderflower cordial

Elderflower
Elderflower

Hello. It’s happened again, it has sprang and sprung into our lives again, and about time too. With the exception of the birth of a child, a World Cup final or the unboxing of a new laptop, spring is arguably the most exciting time in our lives. Endless possibilities bloom ahead of us now we seem to get two days for the price of one because it’s still light when we get home from work.

Even as you’re reading this, I bet some of you are considering eating outside tonight, if the garden furniture survived the winter. Contrast this feeling with what was only a few short weeks ago, when we were pondering which de-icer to buy or desperately trying to re-pressurise the boiler with a YouTube video in one hand and the closest thing you could find to a tool in the other, and the whole sensation is even more welcoming.

However inspiring this feeling is, in our family it is also tinged with an element of dread, following last year’s incident that besmirched our foray into the world of home brewing. This has gone down in our history as the elderflower debacle.

Looking back, I reckon the whole thing started when my mum slipped a bottle of elderflower cordial into the weekly big shop. The following evening my dad was scanning the receipt to triple check the loyalty points had been appropriately logged when he clocked the price of the offending article. ‘Not even a big bottle of the stuff! Best part of four quid and you only get a Worcester sauce size bottle!’ he yelled.

Following a cost per sip analysis (dad) and a declaration that it really is a lovely drink (mum), the whole family was roped into to making our own elderflower cordial.

A simple enough task on paper, an afternoon in the garden harvesting our own flowers gave us a few baskets full, and a trip to the Peak District tripled our haul. My dad did question the purity of the latter, convinced that Derbyshire elderflowers might not be up to the job but soon enough my parents’ shed played host to six glass demijohns of sugary murky home brew.

Everything was hunky dory until one evening when a massive bang was heard coming from outside. Being faithful to their generation, my parents got under the table and kept tuned to the radio for updates, so it took a couple of hours and another earth moving crash before they realised the noise was coming from the shed.

Over the next few days, two more demijohns self-detonated and although the shed was still standing, the door had been blown off its hinges while the inside was sporting a new pale sludgy yellow redecoration. However the biggest concern was that the last remaining demijohn had not yet ‘gone off’ and stood resolutely near the loosely hanging door, as if keeping guard on its soggy and shard littered surrounding.

A further three weeks elapsed and while we all agreed that the remaining elderflower demijohn would be now perfect for consumption, it would take a special breed of madman to attempt to decant it as could clearly erupt at any time.

Word had now spread around the local area and there was genuine buzz in the air surrounding our very own Mount Etna with some people even entering into a sweep stake as to when the final demijohn would blow. However all this tension, all these military-style dashes to and from the washing line and all these illicit gambling rings were bought to an abrupt end when my dad commissioned an ex-army neighbour, Frank, to act as chief marksman and take out the target with an air rifle.

As you can imagine this attracted quite a crowd who gathered in my parents’ living room to watch through the patio doors, while Frank and my dad took up their position on a grassy knoll which offered a sheltered but clear view of the shed, the kill zone and the target.

It took Frank a few attempts to take the target out. Maybe this was because his weapon was hardly of a professional grade, and he later confessed to only being a chef in the army and had never actually used a firearm before.

Still, normal service was quietly resumed and plans to ‘eat outside’ again were initiated by my mum. My dad still puts the whole sorry episode down to the fact that we had mixed Derbyshire and Yorkshire elderflowers together in the original recipe. Never again he concluded, over a glass of supermarket-bought elderflower cordial.

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