One of the most refreshing drinks for the summer is an elderflower cordial. This recipe is quick, easy to make, and a great excuse for a long walk collecting flowers. The elderflower season is short—late May to mid-July—so making this wonderful, refreshing drink is a great way to preserve these heavily scented flowers. When stored in sterilized bottles, the cordial will keep for several weeks. The sweet, delicately floral, somewhat fruity cordial is also useful in many other recipes, like ice cream, relish, and cocktails.
A word of warning: If you are out collecting elderflowers, make sure you have permission to pick them and never pick flowers from trees on roadsides as they may be tainted with gas fumes. When you get them home, shake the elderflower bunches very well to remove debris and insects.
2 1/4 pounds sugar
6 cups boiling water
4 medium lemons, washed
2 ounces citric acid powder
30 large clusters (about 6-inch diameter) elderflower heads
Lemon slices, for garnish
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
Place the sugar in a large saucepan, stockpot, or large Pyrex bowl. Pour the boiling water over and stir until all the sugar has dissolved; let cool.
Grate the zest of the lemons with a fine grater and add to the sugar water. Make sure to only grate the yellow and not the white pith.
Slice the lemons into thick slices and add to the water.
Add the citric acid powder and stir.
Add the flower heads to the water and stir again.
Cover with a clean cloth and let steep for 48 hours.
Strain through a clean fine muslin cloth into a clean bowl.
Using a funnel, fill sterilized glass bottles with the liquid.
To serve, pour over ice, garnish with lemon slices, and enjoy.
Ways to Use
- Dilute the cordial with still or fizzy water.
- Use to flavor ice creams and fruit fools (pureed fruit mixed with whipped cream).
- Add to a vinaigrette for a summer salad.
- Create a floral dessert by using it in a cheesecake.
- Combine with summer fruits in a homemade jelly.
How to Store
- Seal the bottles and store them in a cool, dark place (not the refrigerator) for a few weeks; or you can process them in a canning water bath to preserve them for longer storage.
- Another option is to freeze the elderflower cordial in plastic bottles.
- Once you open a bottle, it must be stored in the refrigerator.
How to Sterilize the Bottles
To sterilize the glass bottles, rinse in the dishwasher, or place in a 300 F / 150 C oven until the bottles are warmed through but not red-hot. Handle with care.
Where can I find elderflowers?
Elderflowers may be found in a variety of locations—from parks to the roadside—but they aren't commonly sold in stores or markets, although they can be purchased online. Many people will set out to gather the flower heads once they learn where elderberry plants flourish and have bloomed flowers that are ready to pick. There are other white flowers that may appear similar, so make sure you know what you are looking for: a very large bush with clusters of white flowers and not small white flowers that grow directly out of the ground.