Elderflower cordial

My oh my, it’s been such a long time since I posted last.  Sorry, sorry.  Choclette has even asked me if I have disappeared into another ash cloud. It is starting to feel that way.  I have a list of jobs as long as my arm ( and someone else’s) and it seems if I dare to turn my back more weeds have grown to monstrous proportions in the garden.  Oh well, mustn’t complain as there are some good things growing there too. I am hoping to harvest a few broad beans tonight for the first time, and we are on our last root of Charlotte potatoes from the polytunnel, just in time for those in the garden to be ready.  The first strawberry is turning a crimson shade today in the old sink, ready for the girls to pick tonight. The girls have been disappearing  for about twenty minutes every night just before bed to emerge smeared with redcurrants.  The onions and garlic are nearly there too and we have been enjoying them the last couple of weeks.

My mum, who of course has a garden in which there is not a weed in sight, gave me some wonderful beetroot this week which I roasted and enjoyed very much indeed. Even Mr OC who has for years had a fear of the beetroot (something to do with pickled beets and the way they bleed into everything on your plate) had one and said it was ‘alright’!

One of the best things about this time of year though is the hedgerow and the wonders that can be found in it.  We are very lucky to have some really good elderflower trees nearby, which are well away from the road and which, this year, are brimming with flowers.  So, on Sunday evening, with the sun still shining I went off with my scissors and bowl and cut about 30 heads of elderflower.  The smell of these flowers is so beautifully sweet and delicious and really is the essence of summer. When I poured the just boiled water over, the smell permeated the whole house all evening, making it worthwhile making this cordial simply for that reason.

However, there is another very good reason for making this cordial and that is that it is really delicious and thirst quenching on a hot day, or even a cloudy and showery day like today.  I also intend to have a go at making an ice cream or a sorbet with it.  Should you be planning a summer barbecue, then make some quick as it makes a really good drink for those who wish to forgo the alcohol.

I have taken the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, 2001, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0 00220204 2) in which Hugh advises that if you want to keep this for more than a few weeks in the fridge then you should add a heaped teaspoon of tartaric acid for every 500ml of strained juice. It should then last for a year.  I haven’t added any to mine as I don’t expect it to hang around that long.  Don’t forget that the cordial needs to be diluted by at least one part cordial to five parts water before you enjoy it.   I am going on the hunt for a recipe for blackcurrant cordial next.

Make sure you are careful when you pick the elderflowers as you don’t want to lose the precious pollen in each of the tiny flowers.  Give them a very gentle shake to get rid of insects and then start the recipe as quickly as you can once they are picked.

20-30 heads of elderflower
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 1 orange
350g sugar for every 500ml of strained juice
50ml lemon juice for every 500ml of strained juice


Place the heads of elderflower in a large bowl and grate over the zest of the 2 lemons and 1 orange.  Pour enough just-boiled water over the elderflowers to cover them completely. Cover with a cloth and leave overnight.  The next day strain through a muslin or a clean tea towel and measure the amount of strained juice you have.  Then pour into a large pan.  For every 500ml of strained juice add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice and heat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Bring up to a gentle simmer and spoon off any scum that rises to the surface.  Leave to go cold, then strain it through a muslin or tea towel again and then decant into clean bottles.  Store in the fridge and then dilute by at least one part cordial to five parts cold water.  Add ice and enjoy.

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27 thoughts on “Elderflower cordial”

  1. So glad you’re back to posting. Your garden sounds amazing albeit a lot of work–all worth it, though. I was served an elderflower cordial (alcoholic) once. It was syrupy and floral–refreshing.

    1. Hi Michele, yes we are very lucky to have a good sized garden, but it does take up a lot of weekends. Your Elderflower booze sounds lovely. Our neighbour gave us some bottles of Elderflower champagne that he had made last week, so we are looking forward to trying that in a couple of weeks’ time.

  2. Funnily enough, I have just made some Elderflower Cordial too, although my recipe used just lemons. I have made a orange & lemon version in the past though and it was lovely. So many recipes include citric acid and it is just not necessary. I am planning to put a post up eventually, but now that the flowers are over for this year I might leave it until next.
    My recipe also suggested that you can make elderflower sugar by burying a head in a jar of sugar, similar to vanilla or lavender sugar. I have done this and will be interested to see how it develops. Has anyone else done this? (I put my elderflower head in a fine mesh bag to keep the sugar clean.)
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

    1. Hi HopeEternal, That tip about the elderflower in sugar sounds a good one. I need to find a jar now and I will give it a try. Here in Shropshire the elders are still flowering.

      1. I ought to have added that the flower head must be dried first – give it overnight in the airing cupboard or in a very low oven for a few hours – otherwise the sugar will go very strange. Bearing in mind this is a first time experiment for me too, I have to say that mine smells a little strange but is definitely elderflower smell. I just put one dried head in a jam jar full of sugar so I didn’t waste too much. You might just be able to find some flowers …!
        The original idea came from a Waitrose magazine from last year.

    1. That’s interesting Tracy, I don’t even know if you get Elder trees in the US. I have tried googling and not got an answer to that question. The berries that come after the flowers are bitter and can’t be eaten straight from the tree but are used in bramble jellies and the like. The flowers, look rather ordinary from a distance but are very beautiful when studied up close and the smell is strangely delicate and overpowering at the same time.

  3. Kath, good to have you back. I love the colour of your cordial, I wonder how you get it to be so dark, mine is always quite pale. Have you tried making elderflower champagne? Your girls would love it, it was always such a treat when I was young – I wasn’t allowed to have bought fizzy drinks.

    1. Hi Choclette!
      I think the colour is darker because of the orange content. My one with lemon is much more ‘lemony’. As for elderflower champagne, it’s great. My aunt used to make it regularly but I have never plucked up the courage – have heard too many tales of exploding bottles!

    2. Hi Choclette,
      I think the darker colour is because I have used unrefined golden caster sugar rather than the white stuff. I tend not to have white sugar in the house and so used what I have. My neighbour has given us some elderflower champagne, but I wonder if it isn’t alcoholic once it has fermented. Does anyone know for sure. I don’t want two children with hangovers.

      1. Kath, I think there is a little alcohol content, but it is so low it shouldn’t matter. I certainly don’t remember any of us kids reeling around drunk!

  4. I was wondering too, but knew that you were not too far away.

    I still have some elderflower champagne in my shed from last year. I’m certain its not alcoholic, just fizzy! So chances are the kids will be burping rather than suffering from a hangover.

  5. Oh how I wish I had a garden! Imagine growing your own strawberries and beetroot and spuds. Jealous!!!! Also loving the idea of homemade elderflower cordial. I love elderflower! The first thing I’m going to do when we get ourselves a house with a backyard is make sure I have a plentiful supply of elderflower ;0)

    1. Hi Chele, I know, I am very lucky to have space to grow and a hedgerow of trees nearby. I agree Elder trees are lovely with their flowers and then berries and definitely worth some backyard space.

  6. Hello
    Your garden sounds wonderful at the moment, to a gardenless person it always sounds wonderful, but it’s clearly blooming now – oh and the redcurrants – you can make jelly !. Your elderflower cordial looks great, I miss it, it was the one thing I used to make in The Uk, I am back at the weekend so am looking forward to my Mum’s. Elderflower sorbet – lovely idea. Glad you are back

  7. I have never made Elderflower Cordial but if I had trees nearby I would definitely have a go. Elderflower cordial is always in this house, albeit, a bought bottle.

  8. Your elderlower cordial looks so cool & pretty tasty too!

    A lovely recipe, that’s for sure,..I also love the recipes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall!!!

  9. Pingback: Gooseberry and elderflower jam | The Ordinary Cook

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