Saturday 11 June 2011

Natures Bounty - Elder flower cordial

"A tropic heat oozed up from the ground, rank with sharp odours of roots and nettles. Snow-clouds of elder-blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and Rakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming, as though the sky were tearing apart."

Extract from the opening of Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee, 1959

Maybe it's because I love reading 'Cider with Rosie,' that I wanted to make Elderflower Cordial with "snow-clouds of elder-blossom".

I just managed to catch the blossoms before they began to fade and die off. Making this was therauputic. If I'd only known how simple, I would have made it ages ago.

To make 3/4 of a litre of Elderflower Cordial you will need:

  • 754ml of water
  • 450g of caster sugar
  • The zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon
  • "A snow-cloud of elder blossom," or 8 elderflower heads will do!
  1. Carefully tap the flower heads to remove any little insects or dust. You will see from my mini-video below, that this is necessary, even if you think your blossom is insect free! Then place the flower heads into a large bowl.
  2. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup over the flower heads.
  4. Add the lemon zest and juice. At this point most Elderflower Cordial recipes dictate that you also add Citric Acid. As lemons are full of citric acid, I don't see the necessity. I'm sure that the 'Wainscot Granny', Granny Wallon wouldn't have used any!
  5. Cover the bowl and leave overnight for all the heady perfume of elder-blossom to infuse into the syrup.
  6. Sterilise some bottles. You can do this in the dish-washer if you have one, or wash them thoroughly in hot water and leave to dry in a warm oven.
  7. Strain the cordial and pour into the sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge until required.

Diluted, the cordial makes a refreshing drink and is a lovely addition to fruit crumbles. I think would make a great cocktail, if I drank them! Apparently it's delicious with gin and tonic...

Just a gentle word of warning. A little tale. When 'A' and I first got married and went through a phase of making wine out of anything possible, including the most delicious sparkling rhubarb champagne; we discovered a massive bank of elderberry trees. They were covered with the most luscious, juicy, dark red berries. We quickly gathered all our friends and spent a happy summer afternoon harvesting enough to make a very large amount of elderberry wine. Spending the remainder of the day planning the happy gatherings that we would have partaking of said wine.

Unfortunately during the gathering we also harvested an inordinate amount of twigs and leaves. A while later, after listening to the reassuringly rythmic plopping of the wine fermenting, we were rewarded with gallons of beautiful looking deep red wine. Well we thought we'd been rewarded, but it had the bitterest taste imaginable... The bitter taste was cyanide which the leaves and branches contain, so must be avoided at all cost. We had to throw it all away...

The moral of this story is just pick the flowers or the berries avoiding the leaves, twigs or bark. Both are really worth harvesting. I plan to make elderberry jam in the autumn, that's if the little tree at the end of our garden produces enough fruit...

you might like to check out what these people are making


  1. well, we're surrounded by Elderflower but I've never done anything about it... this is such a simple recipe I feel like I really must give it a go... thank so much for posting!

  2. How delightful ... it looks like a wonderful calming process Debby, and I'm pretty sure I'd love the flavour of the resulting Elder flower cordial ...

    I hope your weekend is treating you well.

  3. Thanks Tracey it's been a really fruitful one. Hope yours was too.

  4. I've only just discovered Elderflower Cordial through Jamie Oliver who thinks everything is improved by a dash of EC. I thought I might have to search for it but there it was at the local supermarker in a lovely green bottle and we've been drinking it ever since. Might have to try and track down my own little tree...

  5. elderflower cordial, how delightful sounding! i grew up in singapore, where i never saw such thigns before, and then i came to london and saw these. really wanted to make a gooseberry and elderflower preserve of some sort to bring home to my family for summer to let them have a taste of these british "weird" foods, but missed the brief elderflower season ):