Sunday, 4 May 2014

Bear, Bushcraft & Survival Skills magazine & elderflower cordial.

In Bear Gyrlls, Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine, and 'Sensational' Elderflower
Cordial? That's quite a combination, let me expand on it. 

In early 2009 I'd been approached via a personal message on the Escouts forum by the organiser of a July Explorer Scout camp (Gilwell 24) which is held at the Gilwell camp site to see if I would be interested in helping Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine on a stand they were bringing. As I subscribed it didn't take much thought.

It later transpired that they were going to be in attendance to cover Bear Grylls' investiture as Chief Scout which was going to happen at said event which rather added to the promise of attending. It was all a bit last minute so I wasn't really sure what to bring, or indeed if I needed to bring anything but I thought a drop of homemade elderflower cordial would hit the spot.

I got parked up on the Saturday and noticed a white van double parked near the main admin building with some guys milling round it. I decided to ring the contact number I was given to see if anyone picked up and Chris Irwin the then magazine designer answered. A quick meet and greet was followed with a sense of urgency, they had a minimal brief of what was happening and where to be so I told them to follow me in the van and after some slow and careful driving through the throng of Explorer Scouts wearing bright wigs, tutus and 'hug me' signs they got parked up near a small fire circle (near the bomb hole for those that know).

A quick dash to the stage saw us there with minutes to spare. It would have been touch and go without a scouter doing his good deed ( he says with barely any modesty!). Once Bear had finished accepting the role from outgoing Chief Scout Peter Duncan both were off for a walk about to press the flesh.




We retired back to the van and I helped them to set up their stand which was made up of event flags and those upside down roller blind style adverts and a gazebo with magazine details and offers. There were also some large, wide logs for individuals to practice ferro rod usage on.


It was all hands on deck a short while afterwards as Bear rolled into view, I managed to get to have a word 1-2-1 which to this day I don't know how I managed as there were masses vying for his attention. I presented him with a laminated four leaf clover for luck in his new roll, and a wooden whistle made of wild service tree wood.


 

After the commotion died down I decided to offer the guys on the stand a taste of the homemade cordial that I'd bought along with me and I was really chuffed that they all raved about it to the point where one of the guys forbade me to offer to any of the camp participants!



I awaited the next magazine to read the coverage and was absolutely delighted with the article: Not only was it a respectably sized piece but it had a pic of me meeting Bear in it and Chris thanked me at the end for my help and described my elderflower cordial as 'sensational'.

Fast forward to the winter of 2010 and I decided to send in the recipe to the letters page and not only was it published, it got star letter status and earned me a fire piston (which is a rugged piece of kit for sure).


So with the shaggy dog story done, here's the method I used and then wrote down in the letter to the magazine. There are variations but this works for me...


Ingredients:

1.5 litres of  water (0.5 litre boiling and 1 litre tepid or cold). 
1 kilo of castor sugar 
20/25 large elderflower heads (available late May to mid June.If they are small pick more) 
3 lemons 
55g of citric acid (which is a box, costs around a pound from Chemists)


In a large bowl or billy pour the boiling boiling water onto the sugar to  cover it and stir, adding a little of the tepid/ cold water if the sugar isn't covered. Leave to cool, stirring every now and then to dissolve the sugar. 

 
Add the citric acid, the lemon zest. You can slice the lemon in too and  it will cut through the syrupy taste. Knock any insects out of the Elderflower heads and then put the heads into a small bowl and add the rest of the water to just about cover them. Gently stir this. Using tepid to cold water keeps the fragrant flower heads from turning limp, brown and unusable.   

Strain the cold Elderflower liquid through a sterilised muslin place in a sieve into the syrup. Serve with chilled carbonated water and love it, you'll feel refreshed. 
For Beavers, Cubs and Scouts you can do a cheats version. Follow the above but make some at home and freeze into ice cubes...sneak them into your HQ freezer/ fridge/ cool box and add the 'ice' at the end of the evening to cool it off-instantly quaffable cordial. A Bear Grylls free version of this recipe is available here for those that wish it.
It freezes well too...







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