Today I have a really easy recipe for homemade elderflower cordial for you. It is the perfect summer drink – delicious with just a splash of sparkling water, or mixed into cocktails (it is fabulous in a gin and tonic!) – and conjures up really strong memories of my childhood, helping my Grandpa to pick the blooms to make his infamous elderflower cordial. Infamous because Grandpa wasn’t quite as careful as me to let all the bugs run away before making the cordial, or to sieve all the petals and stems out before serving. Many a summer afternoon we sat and endured this drink on the lawn whilst avoiding the worst of the floating contents! The taste was always wonderful though, and this recipe will help you to achieve the taste without any of the floaty bits, I promise.
Elderflower grows wild in hedgerows throughout Britain in late June and early July, and you can still find bushes in full bloom now (I keep seeing more out and about on our dog walks and wanting to make another batch). It does however bear quite a resemblance to another wildflower, namely cowparsley, which is wildly poisonous, so be sure you are picking from a tree or bush with a woody stem, and not from a ground-level plant, and if in doubt, google some photographs for identification before you do so. You can usually tell by giving it a sniff, elderflower has a very distinct scent!
It often grows along roadsides but the traffic fumes can stick to it and ruin the scent (and you don’t particularly want to drink them either). In my photo it looks as though I am on the road but the tree is actually down a bridleway to the side of the road and far enough away that I was happy it wasn’t too grubby!
Elderflower doesn’t like to be kept waiting, so only pick your flowers when you are ready to begin making your cordial, or they will start to wilt almost straight away.
- Approx 30 heads of elderflower
- 1 lime
- 2 lemons
- 1 kg sugar
- 1.5 l boiling water
- First take all your heads outside, and shake each one to dislodge any bugs and things which might be living in there.
- Once they are bug free, pick the blossoms off of the stems, which can be bitter. You can do this quite quickly, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Then put your elderflower in a large bowl, along with the zest of the two lemons and the lime.
- Pour the boiling water on the mix, stir, and leave to cool, then put it in the fridge overnight.
- Next day, prepare your bottles (I used three 500ml Kilner bottles for this recipe) by sterilising them in the oven (remove the tops and place on a baking tray in the oven at 130ºC for half an hour). Whilst the bottles are in the oven, put the sugar into a large saucepan, and then strain the liquid from the bowl into the saucepan, and add the juice of your lemons and lime.
- Slowly bring the contents of the saucepan to the boil, and then simmer it, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
- Whilst it is still hot, carefully pour the contents of the saucepan into your bottles using a funnel and a piece of gauze inside the funnel (a coffee filter would also work) to catch any remaining bits. (This is the step my Grandpa forgot!)
- Seal the bottles, and store them in a dark cupboard for up to a year. Once opened, they should be consumed fairly quickly (but I doubt that will be a problem if our household is anything to go by!).
I was really pleasantly surprised by how deliciously fragrant the cordial was, even when just mixed with tap water, it makes a very refreshing drink. It goes particularly well with citrus fruits, but also works nicely with strawberries and raspberries. You can also use the syrup in baking or to top ice cream or to make ice lollies in this hot weather. And all this for the cost of a bag of sugar and a few lemons and limes!