When elder trees are flowering, I can feel and smell summer is arriving. Then is the right time to go out in the fields armed with bucket and secateurs, wearing wellies and long pants protecting for stinging nettles. The abundant white elderflower heads are best fully opened as pollen embraces your hand when clipping. Make sure the elderflower blossoms are not browning.
Fragrant and refreshing elderflower cordial at home is easy to make and store. When drinking mix 1 part of cordial with 7 parts of tap water, sparkling water, or cold tea. If you like alcohol, mixed with wine, prosecco, or even champagne you produce a party style drink. Or, use the cordial to drizzle over pancakes, and it’s great to sweeten a smoothie, a frozen yogurt, or add it to homemade ice cream.
This is a recipe for 2 litres of elderflower cordial. Making more? Just multiply the ingredients.
- 1 kg white sugar, either granulated or caster
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 20 fresh cut elderflower heads, about 200 g – if using more, the more intense the flavour will be
- Large saucepan
- Clip top airtight storage jar, 2 litres (or 2 one litres)
- Clean tea towel
- Sterilised bottles with a cap or a clip top and lidded jam jars
Here we go
- Combine the sugar and 1 litres water into a large saucepan over medium heat, without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir it now and again. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the pan of syrup gently to the boil, and turn off the heat.
- In the meantime, remove any dirt or insects from the elderflower screens and trim the stems (try to remove as much of the stems as you can). You can give the flowers a gentle swish around in a washing bowl with cold water, but I prefer not, as they will lose a lot of flavour, wasting the yellow pollen.
- Pare the zest from the lemons using a potato peeler, then slice the lemons into 1 cm rounds. Cut the zest in stripes (a few mm).
- Layer the elderflower blossoms, lemon rounds, and zest stripes in the airtight storage jar. Cautiously pour the freshly boiled syrup into the jar. Make sure that the blossoms are immersed in the syrup.
- Leave about 2 cm of air. Close the jar and let it steep at room temperature for three days to infuse, stirring the syrup gently once daily. There is no need to open the jar.
- Line a colander with a clean tea towel then set it over a large saucepan. Gentle open the clip top airtight storage jar and ladle in the syrup. Let it drip slowly through. Squeeze the tea towel. Discard the bits left in the towel (on the compost bin). Gently heat without boiling.
- Take a series of sterilised bottles and lidded jam jars. Run the glass bottles and jars through the dishwasher, or wash well with soapy water. Rinse, then leave to dry in a 90°C oven. Use a funnel and a ladle to fill the bottles and jam jars with the nearly boiled elderflower cordial.
And now… enjoy!
The cordial is ready to drink straight away and will keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Or freeze it in the jam jars and defrost as needed. When cooled you can fill ice cube trays.