Most summers I make a cordial from infusions of edible plants and herbs. In recent years, Lemon Geranium Cordial has become a favourite, and one I like to teach at Vale House Kitchen.
This year without any Lemon Geranium growing in the garden, I decided to experiment with Lemon Balm. A herb with nettle shaped leaves, it is an easy to grow perennial preferring a sheltered but sunny position. It grows to around 50cm and just before flowering, it’s good to cut it down to 10cm to encourage new growth.
The leaves have a delicate minty lemon flavour and have a variety of culinary uses including salads ( sweet and savoury ), in tea, in cake batter and as a vinegar. To add to my liqueur stocks, I steeped 30-40 leaves in 600ml vodka, mixed with 180g sugar. I’ll have to wait a few months before passing judgement. Meanwhile, a Lemon Balm and Rosemary Cordial is easy to make and ready to drink once bottled. Fragrant and refreshing, serve it with Prosecco or sparkling water, and garnish each glass with a mint leaf. As with all cordials, sterilise the contents of the bottles in a water bath. Alternatively, keep refrigerated and drink within a few weeks.
Lemon Balm and Rosemary Cordial
170g caster sugar
Juice of 2 large lemons
30 Lemon Balm leaves
4 sprigs Rosemary
1. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the herbs.
2. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
3. Discard the herbs and strain the cordial through a sieve lined with thin cotton muslin.
4. Pour the cordial into clean bottles, to within 2.5cm from the brim. Screw the tops on loosely. Do not seal. Stand the bottles on a trivet or wads of newspaper in a tall pan. Add cold water up to the lower level of the lid. Heat the water to simmering (88C/190F) and maintain this temperature for 20 minutes.
5. Protecting your hands, carefully remove the bottles from the pan. To prevent cracking, stand them on a wooden board and tighten the lids immediately. Leave until cold.