Thursday, June 27, 2013

Elderflower cordial

The hedgerows are full of the beautiful, frothy creamy-white flowers of the Elder tree at the moment.  They are later than usual and making an extra special display this year to make up for their late appearance.

Here's my time-honoured recipe for the perfect elderflower cordial.  It came from my mum from an old magazine (Woman and Home I think) and was originally in pounds and ounces so I've converted into metric measures :


Approx 20 heads of elderflowers - they come in many different sizes so if one is teeny-weeny just add an extra one.

2 lemons (preferably unwaxed but if you can't find them just scrub the peel gently before use)  
1.8kg sugar (granulated or caster but not the golden versions as it spoils the delicate flavour)

1.2 litres water
75g citric acid (this is necessary as otherwise the cordial doesn't last very long and goes mouldy).  You can buy it online or at a Chemists but make sure it is 'food grade'.

This will make about 1.5 litres of cordial.  I make double quantity as not only do we drink it, I use it in the kitchen (see below).


Shake the elderflowers gently as you snip them to remove any insects hiding in their delicate petals.

Elder flowerheads

Add the sugar to the water and bring to the boil slowly, stirring frequently to make sure the sugar is all dissolved.

While the sugar/water mixture is heating up, pare the zest of 2 lemons into wide strips and add them to a large metal pan or bowl (I use my maslin, or jam-makling, pan).  Cut the ends off the lemons and discard them (for the compost heap of course) then slice the lemons and add them to the pan.

Lemon zest strips and slices
When the sugar has fully dissolved you can turn the heat up until the mixture boils then pour it over the elderflowers and lemons.  Take care as the pan will be heavy!

Give it a good stir round and then add the citric acid and stir again.  Cover it with a teatowel and leave the mixture to steep overnight.

The next day strain the mixture through a fine sieve, lined with muslin if you have any as there are very fine bits that can spoil the effect of the cordial.  I get my muslin from  Lakeland but any good kitchen shop will stock it.

Then pour it into clean bottles and it's ready to use!  I use a measuring jug to scoop it out of the pan as I find lifting the pan too awkward and heavy.


You can dilute the cordial with water, still or sparkling, make it into a white wine spritzer with sparkling water and wine.  Some people add mint leaves or a slice of lemon.  I just like it with plain water as it's so refreshing.

It goes brilliantly with gooseberries in a fool and indeed the elderflowers make a fabulous jam when combined with gooseberries - check out my recipe for Elderflower and Gooseberry jam which seems to be getting a lot of hits at the moment.  It truly is delicious and well worth the effort.

I sometimes pour it neat over ice-cream and we like it added to stewed apple in a crumble.


Anonymous said...

Hi sounds lovely.

Where can i pick elderflowers on the isle of wight please. I live in cowes.

Susie Hewer said...

Sorry, but I don't live on the IOW but remember it as a beautiful island. The best place to look for them would be in hedgerows or perhaps on the edge of woodland. It tastes wonderful and is well worth the effort if you can find the flowers. Happy hunting!