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.

Equipment needed

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)

Large jug




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.

Next day strain the cordial through the muslin into a clean bowl. Do not squeeze the pulp to strain through more syrup as this will make the cordial cloudy.

Thoroughly wash the bottles and lids and then sterilize in a warm oven for 30 mins.

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.

Allow to cool and then label.

Using your Cordial

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!

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  1. Hi Mandy,

    I really want to make this but I was wondering where abouts in Dorset you go to forage these Elderflower heads? I can’t find any anywhere!



    1. Hi Rachel – Just head into the countryside and check all the quiet roads & lanes, elderflower bushes will be easily spotted with their big bunches of gorgeous flowers 🙂

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