Let’s Keep it Cordial!


It’s nearly June and one of the things that I become obsessed by is elderflower! I love the stuff! As many of you know I do like a bit of foraging so I come into my element in June when all the hedgerows are full of those little creamy fluffy flower heads and I want to pick them all! There is absolutely no need to buy the expensive bottles of the ready-made stuff as it is so easy to make at home meaning you can have a fresh supply that you can keep stored in your fridge for weeks with very little effort. And if you make too much then freeze it jam jars and you can pull it out in the deepest, darkest days of winter and remind yourself of the summer past and the summer to come!

You can serve it with sparkling water like I do or try it mixed with vodka, crushed ice, lemon juice and top up with soda water for a great ‘Elderflower Collins’! It is just as good added to Prosecco for a perfect summer spritzer! I am also going to use my cordial to add to my low-sugar apricot jam this year and I may add a drop to my strawberry jam too. I think the flavours will complement each other perfectly. One of the most popular cakes on the counter from last year was our Gooseberry and Elderflower so we will be making this again come June and spread a decent amount of jam on a layer of cake with some whipped cream before placing another layer on top!

And if you have any flowers left over then use them to make pretty ice cubes to fancy up your summer night drinking!

Bit of info

Elder is a prolific, bushy coloniser of a tree that grows up to 10m and it is found everywhere but favours hedges, footpaths, borders, lanes, roads and the edges of wood and waste ground. On the tree, the flowers will smell faintly sweet and of the finished cordial, but they may also have a little unappetising aroma. Some may say that it can have a slight whiff of cat wee to it, which I have to admit it does a bit, and others say it smells more let’s say carnal! Either way, ignore this because it will disappear once you have prepared the cordial!

To Make Elderflower Cordial

Pick the clusters (‘heads’), preferably early in the morning and preferably on a dry day and before the insects rob all that flavoursome pollen. You need about 20 heads to make 4 litres of cordial, but that’s quite a lot so you can always halve the quantities below.

THIS MAKES APPROX 7 PINTS/3.9LITRES (just half the recipe if you don’t want to make quite so much! Or freeze it if you make the quantity below)

900g/2lb granulated sugar

3.5litres/6 pints of boiling water

50g citric acid – this is not essential as I have made it without in the past but you can buy in Maqbul’s if you live in Edinburgh or buy from a chemist. The citric acid adds a little bit of tartness and helps to preserve the syrup.

40 elderflower heads, unwashed

1 orange, zested and sliced

1 lemon, zested and sliced

1 grapefruit, zested and sliced

Pour the sugar into a bowl large enough to hold the sugar and water. Pour the boiling water over the sugar, stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool.

Add the citric acid to the cooled liquid.

Don’t wash the elderflower heads or shake them too vigorously as this will remove the pollen and the pollen is where all the wonderful fragrance is held. Place the elderflowers, zest and sliced fruit in the water and make sure they are submerged.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a cool place for 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain the cordial and transfer to sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge for up to a month or freeze where it will keep quite happily for up to a year.

To serve, dilute with some sparkling water – approx. 50ml of cordial to 1 pint of water is about right but add more cordial if you want it a bit stronger. Top up with some of those elderflower ice cubes!

Alternatively, add some vodka and top up with tonic!