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Elderflower cordial

Updated: May 31

Every year I think that I should make elderflower cordial and every year I realise that I have just missed my window of opportunity, and the elderflowers are no more. But this year I am on the case. I stocked up on citric acid in preparation so that I was ready to leap into action as soon as the elderflowers put in an appearance.


Read on to find out more about making elderflower cordial (plus a bonus extra cordial recipe):



Glass of elderflower cordial with lemons and elderflowers to one side, resting on a garden table


Harvest your elderflowers


The first step is to harvest the elderflowers. They come into bloom around the end of May and flower until mid-June, depending on where you are in the UK.


There are plenty of small white flowers around in hedgerows at this time of year – elderflowers, cow parsley, wild garlic, hawthorn, etc, so if you have any doubts, use a plant identifier app to ensure that you pick the right flowers.


Ideally you should pick the flowers early on a sunny day before it gets too hot, and then make the cordial as soon as possible while that the flowers are still fresh.


For this recipe you will need about 20 large flower heads – I recommend that you cut a few extra, just in case any are a bit ragged. If you can only find small heads, two small heads are roughly the same size as one large one.



Preparation and timings


Note that elderflower cordial is not quick to make – it doesn’t require a great deal of preparation, but you do need to allow 24 hours for the flowers to steep and the flavour to develop. However, this does mean that if you haven’t managed to sterilise your bottles in advance, you still have plenty of time to get them done before you need them.


The following recipe makes about 3 litres of cordial, so make sure you have plenty of bottles ready to put it in! (You need to make a reasonable quantity of elderflower cordial as the flowers are only available for such a short amount of time but you have to make enough to last you the whole summer.)



Recipe for elderflower cordial


The following elderflower cordial recipe is largely based on the BBC Good Food recipe with a few tweaks of my own.


Their recipe includes white sugar, and using this will give you the typical pale yellow coloured elderflower cordial. However I rarely use white sugar, preferring to use unrefined sugar – so this is what I use when I make elderflower cordial. This results in a much deeper coloured cordial, but don’t let that put you off – it still tastes amazing. Use whichever type of sugar you prefer!


Ingredients

  • 2.5 kg white sugar (or unrefined sugar, see above) – both granulated or caster sugar work fine

  • 2 unwaxed lemons

  • About 20 freshly picked elderflower heads (with stalks removed)

  • 85g food grade citric acid

  • 1.5 litres cold water


Method

  1. Find your very largest saucepan and pour in the sugar and water. Over a low heat slowly dissolve the sugar, stirring occasionally. Make sure that it doesn't boil.

  2. Grate the zest from the lemons, using a fine grater or a vegetable peeler. Then cut the remaining lemon into slices.

  3. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, bring the pan to the boil and then turn off the heat.

  4. Fill a large bowl with cold water and very gently give the flower heads a quick dip to dislodge any insects, dirt or other debris. (You don't need to be particularly thorough as any bits left over will be strained out later.)

  5. Carefully lift the flowers from the bowl, give them a gentle shake to remove excess water then add them to the pan of sugar syrup.

  6. Add the lemons, zest and citric acid to the pan and stir well to combine. Cover the pan and leave it to infuse for 24 hours.

  7. In the meantime sterilise your bottles – either in a dishwasher, or with boiling water.

  8. After the syrup has finished infusing, use a clean muslin cloth (or a thin tea towel) to line a colander, then place it over a large jug or bowl.

  9. Gradually pour the syrup into the colander – letting it slowly drip through the muslin into the jug. (Discard anything left behind in the muslin after all the syrup has dripped through.)

  10. Put a funnel into the neck of your sterilised bottle, pour in the syrup, then seal the bottle. The cordial is now ready to drink.


The homemade elderflower cordial will keep in the fridge for up to six weeks, alternatively you can freeze it in ice cube trays and defrost it when needed. Dilute with water to drink, or get fancy and mix it with some Prosecco!


If you don’t like things too sweet, try reducing the amount of sugar you use – you might need to experiment with the quantities a little, until you find what works for you, but I’d start by reducing it in 100g increments. Alternatively, add an extra lemon to make it a little more tart.



Recipe for lime and mint cordial


If you’re looking for a tasty cordial that you can make all year round, try our lime and mint cordial. If you mix it with fizzy water, add a slice of lime and a sprig of mint, you can just about convince yourself that you’re drinking a virgin mojito!


You will need one or two sterilised bottles to decant the cordial into – the recipe makes about 750ml of cordial.


Ingredients

  • 6 limes

  • About 50 large mint leaves

  • 2 tsp citric acid

  • 450g granulated sugar

  • 500ml water


Method

  1. Zest half of the limes, then juice them all – you need about 200ml of lime juice.

  2. Pour the lime juice into a pan, add the citric acid and stir.

  3. Add the water, sugar and lime zest, and give it another stir.

  4. Gently muddle the mint leaves – basically bash them a bit to release the oils, then add these to the pan.

  5. Place the pan over a medium heat and stir gently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the liquid gently to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave the liquid to cool for about 15 minutes, allowing the flavours to develop.

  6. Once the liquid is cooled, line a colander with a muslin cloth, or a clean tea towel, and rest it over a large bowl.

  7. Use a ladle to pour the liquid into the colander, and when it has all dripped through into the bowl, use a funnel to ladle the strained cordial into your sterilised bottles.


Your cordial is now ready to drink: mix 1 part cordial with 4 parts water. The lime and mint cordial will keep for up to 6 weeks in the fridge, or can be frozen in plastic containers and defrosted as required.



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