Elderflower cordial is a popular, refreshing summer drink. It is also a rewarding drink after you spent a couple of hours foraging. You can dilute it with either still or (my favourite) sparkling water (and save lots of money in the process!). The cordial can be frozen into an ice cube tray too. Why not try the cordial ice cubes with cider or ginger beer?
I went to a talk by a herbalist and learned that you should pick fresh elderflower in May (but if you live in the UK, June is fine too): choose the higher flowers as they will be less polluted/contaminated and you are less likely to confuse them with other wild flowers which may be toxic.
To recap (source BBC Good Food):
- 2½ kg white sugar, either granulated or caster
- 1.5 litres water
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 20 fresh elderflower heads, stalks trimmed
- 50 gr citric acid (for preserving)
- 2 Campden tablets (for better preserving)
In a large pan, add the sugar and 1.5 litres of water and bring to a simmer on medium heat but avoid boiling the mixture. Stir every so often.
Slice the lemons thinly. Wash the elderflower and discard any flowers that are covered in bugs or don’t look healthy. Shake the flowers gently to remove excess water.
Bring the sugar syrup to the boil, turn off the heat and add the elderflowers, lemon peel and slices and the citric acid (when I prepared the cordial I didn’t get the citric acid or the Campden tablets as I was going to consume it straight away but I do suggest to add it for better preserving). Mix with a wooden spoon to combine all ingredients and cover the pan with a lid, letting everything infuse for 24 hours.
The day after, prepare a large pan or a large bowl where you will transfer the cordial, pour the syrup with a ladle into the bowl filtering it first through a muslin (use a colander to avoid making a mess).
The flowers could be added to a smoothie or a cake, if you like.
Pour the cordial into sterilised bottles using a funnel covered with a muslin cloth to ensure the syrup is clear. To sterilise the bottles, either wash with very hot water or use the highest temperature in the dishwasher.
You can drink the cordial straight away diluted in still or sparkling water and you can keep it in the fridge for 6 weeks or keep it in the freezer in ice cube trays and add to drinks.
Elderflower Cordial Tips and Tricks
If you are not a chef (I am not!), 2.5 kg of sugar is just too much to handle. What I normally do is I make the cordial in small batches of 300 gr sugar and 300 ml water, and pack 10 elderflower heads with 2 whole sliced lemons.
After several experiments I have also noticed that the taste is much better if you add the flowers after the sugar syrup has cooled completely – warm syrup will cook most of the aroma out of the flowers.
Not only that, but sometimes I don’t wash the flowers as I noticed that they are more aromatic that way. Of course, you need to pick very healthy flowers growing in wild areas away from busy roads or other forms of pollution.
Having tried infusing the flowers in the sugar syrup both at room temperature and in the fridge, my advice to you is to do the infusing in the fridge as the end result is much better.
My other suggestion is to pour the cordial diluted in a little water into ice lolly moulds and store in the freezer. You can dip the ice lolly in your drink of choice (mine is cider!).
Feeling peckish? Why not try one of my recipes in the Recipes section.
I would recommend experimenting with elderflower for both sweet and savoury recipes; here are some ideas:
Homemade Elderflower Buds Pickled Capers
Salentina Elderflower Frittata
Elderflower Crème Brûlée
Picture credits: Paola Bassanese