Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gorseflower Cordial

Fancy one of these?

First, you'll need to pick approximately eleventy million of these: gorse flowers, plucked from one of the near countless numbers of gorse that dot the New Zealand countryside. They have the unique scent of coconut and when handled, have a keen sweet smell, not unlike freshly mown grass. You'll need quite a bit to make gorse flower cordial, which I used to make the cocktail pictured above.

First, some background. Gorse was introduced here from the UK at the time of European colonisation. A naturally hardy plant, gorse flourished and then spread like wildfire, becoming our country's single most invasive plant species, with millions spent over the years in trying to eradicate it. While still considered a blight, gorse is increasingly used to foster the regeneration of native forest, serving as cover for young plants until they become established.

Gorse bushes will flower for most of the year, but become especially prolific in spring. I see them all the time when driving along Highway 50 here in Hawke's Bay, and this inspired me, along with an old episode of River Cottage where Hugh F-W made gorse flower wine, to try and make something with them. I thought about making the wine, but I don't have the brewing equipment... yet (material for a future post). So, I settled for a gorse cordial recipe I found at the awesome Eat Weeds site. I was hoping it would taste as good as it smelt, so maybe it would lend itself to a cocktail of some description. Time to get to work...

First, find your gorse bush. Being as prolific as they are, you shouldn't have too much difficulty finding them - try riverbanks, abandoned plots of land, or ask a farmer. Gorse bushes are smothered in wicked-looking spines, so be careful when plucking your flowers. I didn't bother, but you may want to give thought to wearing some gardening gloves; nothing too thick though, otherwise you won't feel a thing and won't be able to grasp the flowers. You'll need 4 large handfuls worth to make around half a litre of cordial. Pop into a plastic bag as you pick.

In order to minimise the loss of scent/flavour, I pretty much made the cordial as soon as I got home.

Gorse Flower Cordial
  • 4 large handfuls of gorse flowers
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 600ml water
  • juice of a lemon
  • zest of an orange
Dissolve sugar in the water and bring to the boil; keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add all ingredients immediately, and stir. Straight away, the first thing I noticed was a smell similar to sweet, fruity herbal tea - no trace of the distinctive coconut smell, however. Leave overnight to cool and infuse, then strain through muslin or similar. It has a bright yellow, Mountain Dew-kind of colour. Store in the fridge.

How did it taste? I took it to work to get opinions and got lots of "mangoes", "cut grass", "spring" and "herby notes". The flavour, while subtle, was quite distinctive.

I tinkered with a few cocktail recipes and came up with this (it doesn't have a name). I ruled out gin, fearing that the pronounced flavours of the botanicals would swamp the cordial, unlike vermouth which I thought would be a little gentler. I'm no expert on cocktails, by any stretch, so if you have any suggestions or would do things differently, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
  • 30ml vodka
  • 30ml dry vermouth
  • 30ml gorse flower cordial
Place ingredients into a cocktail mixer with ice, and stir. Strain into a glass over ice - serve. It has a palid, lime colour, and the flavour of the cordial lingers for quite a while. Alternatively, have with a big splash of soda water and ice. Either way, it's a very pleasant tipple :)


Brian said...

An alcohol infusion would be interesting.

Johanna said...

Awesome!!!! I think you should call it Eleventy Million Gorse Flowers Cordial


Unknown said...

What a great idea, to use such a prolific pest for something good!

Alessandra said...

Ah they are good for something!! Did you perceive any coconut taste? I use them to decorate cakes... they sort of smell like coconut to me...

Sasa said...

Awesome, I've posted this on the Hangawareness page on Facebook, I want all my Kiwi friends to make it ^_^

Nigel Olsen said...

Brian - I'm on it! I have some quietly floating in some white rum; hopefully it'll impart that coconut flavour which is missing from the cordial.

Johanna - Ha! It'll do for the time being.

Kat - Next, I'd like to try Gorse Flower Wine, but it'll have to take a back seat, at least until I get a few other projects out of the way.

Alessandra - No. All trace of it disappeared upon being cooked. It'll be interesting to see whether it comes through in the rum infusion.

Sasa - Cheers, bro!

pierre said...

something I did not know !!! thanks for the sharing !!pierre

Anonymous said...

You inspired me to try it!
so is the 1st step just boiling sugar water?

I am hoping it will taste like spring mangoes and fresh green

wouldn't it be amazing if it become a popular gorse control method!

Nigel Olsen said...

Yep, that's all :) Tell me how you got on.

Emm said...

Awesome!!! Thats the best idea i've seen in ages. So stoked to have come across your lovely blog! :-)

rebelwithoutakitchen said...

I recently tried the same on Waiheke - picked flowers from Awaawaroa (eco-village) therefore sprayfree. Bit of a disappointment - I thought the grassy smell was because I had picked some unopened flowers - the next batch I made, I picked the petals off the stalks to avoid this - I can't say the aroma was worth the effort - although I think that somehow - I was missing a crucial step or maybe I steeped them too long? Dunno - I got real excited about it though - the aroma of a newly flowering gorse bush in the spring is totally intoxicating - now if only we can figure a way to capture that! Good luck!

Vanille said...

Deliciously fresh, isn't it ?
Now you have to try the granita ;)
Enjoy your week-end !

Barton said...

A great kiwi recipe, thanks I want to turn this into a dessert somehow, someday when i am back in nz. A request - heading into spring - I hear we have 7 varieties of edible fern....

Xeompho said...

I've wanted to make this (or at least drink it - let's be honest about how willing I am to work for things) ever since I saw Hugh Fancy-name-what's-his-pants make it on River Cottage.

I reckon gloves'd be useless, but what you need is something like this to protect your wristies:

pierre said...

hi nigel you must have the best weather now !! here in Paris it is damned cold !!pierre

robertguyton said...

Nigel - I've borrowed a snippet from, posted and accredited your gorseflower post on my own blog (even lifted your picture) - have a look - if you're not keen, let me know. I liked your piece very much and will certasinly try the cordial.


Anonymous said...

Thats one great way of getting rid of the gorse! Merry Christmas Nigel

Nigel Olsen said...

Alli - It certainly is! I'm still not 100% sold on it though, to tell the truth. As nice as it is, it doesn't have that lovely coconut/Malibu smell it has flowering in th open.

Robert - Not a problem, & thank you for asking - it's appreciated.

Pierre - Hello, my friend! I'll be in France sometime around March - I'm in Paris, Versaille & then a quick wander around the Loire Valley & Bordeaux. The weather here's been hot until today - it's pouring with rain & is unseasonably cold. Have a happy new year :)

Katrina - Wow, that's beautiful & unfeasible intricate! As for Hugh F-W & the cordial...I tried his recipe with an equally grassy tasting result. I wonder if I'm doing something wrong.

Barton - I'm not sure about the number, but we definitely have a few varieities worth eating. Your best bet's a field guide - pop along to Touchwood Books website. They're based here in Hawke's Bay & specialise in books about plants/animals/growing things/foraging & so forth. They'll definitely have what you need.

Vanille - I love the photographs of your granita - beautiful. Thank you for sharing :)

Rebel Without A Kitchen - I know what you mean about the aroma. I've tried it a few more times, tinkering with the steeping time & adding/dropping sugar & citrus. It simply doesn't smell as it does in the wild, that lovely herby, coconut aroma. Herby, yes - coconut, no.

Emm - Cheers! Please, keep coming back :)

Anonymous said...

This exceeded expectations and was very nice with soda and ice and lemonbalm tea
and a squeeze of lime :)

Nigel Olsen said...

Anon - Excellent!