At this time of year the hedgerows are liberally dotted with Elder bushes laden with frothy, creamy white flower heads but my usual gloriously sunny forage has been severely hampered by the weather! Eventually though, the timing of dry weather and day off have come together and I ventured forth with bag and snippers this morning and returned with half a carrier bag full of lovely, fragrant Elderflower heads. The best flowers to pick are those that have just opened and are away from the road if at all possible. The process takes two days altogether – day one to prepare the syrup, 24 hours for the flower heads to steep and then bottling on the second day.
All the recipes I have come across suggest that the cordial should be kept in the fridge and be used within a month – how frustrating to have to use up all that lovely cordial so soon! So a couple of years ago I experimented with the bottling and applied some principles of jam making. I tried reheating the cordial to boiling point, sterilizing the bottles in the oven and bottling and sealing the cordial whilst hot. I have kept cordial in perfect condition for more than 12 months this way – and not in the fridge either! I have also found that smaller bottles are much better to use as, once the cordial is opened, it does then have to be kept refrigerated and used within a month or so.
Very large saucepan or jam pan
Very large mixing bowl
Large sieve lined with muslin or jelly bag lined with muslin
Assortment of clean bottles with well fitting tops (small if possible)
⅓ – ½ carrier bag of Elderflower heads
1.8 kg granulated or caster sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid (from chemists)
Put the sugar into the pan with the water and bring gently to the boil, stirring occasionally to make sure all the sugar has completely dissolved.
Pare the zest from the lemons in wide strips and then slice the fruit, discarding the ends.
Once the syrup is boiling, remove from the heat and add the flower heads, lemon slices and zest, and citric acid – stir well and then leave to infuse for 24 hours covering the pan with a clean tea towel. Stir occasionally.
Wash the pan and then return the syrup to the pan and bring back to the boil. Remove immediately from the heat and using the jug and funnel, fill the bottles and secure the tops while still hot.
The cordial makes a variety of lovely summer drinks –
Dilute with sparkling or soda water and serve with ice and lemon
Dilute with tonic water and serve with ice and lemon (a great non-alcoholic alternative to G&T)
Add to white wine and soda spritzer
Add to traditional Gin and Tonic or Vodka and tonic
Elderflower cordial with Gooseberries is a match made in heaven, try adding to the fruit in pies, tarts, crumbles or, my favourite, Gooseberry and Elderflower Ice Cream!