Elderflower cordial is great stuff. It’s a lovely sweet taste of summer which is cooling and refreshing on a hot sunny day. Elderflower cordial can be brought in shops, but it’s so expensive at around £3.00 for 75cl. You can make your own elderflower cordial at home. It will save you a fortune, and personally, we thinks it’s tastes way better and it doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives (that is unless you want to).
Yesterday, when walking the dogs, I could smell the sweetness of the elderflowers in the air. Suzy made elderflower cordial last year, and it was so delicious, she was keen to make it again this year. As the sweet aroma wafted in the air I thought “Prime time to pick elderflowers”. I popped home, collected a carrier bag and kitchen scissors and headed back out to start collecting.
5 minutes later I was back home with a carrier bag full of elderflowers. They are so quick to pick it takes virtually no time at all.
To make your own elderflower cordial you will need:
- A large container of some type, big enough to hold everything. We use a wine brewing bucket.
- A spoon to stir with.
- Something to strain with. We use a muslin cloth, but a fine sieve would work just as well.
- Something to help get the syrup in bottles. We use a funnel, but with care a jug would do.
- Some sterilised bottles. You could use a proprietary wine making sterilising powder or something like Milton’s Sterilising Liquid. Personally, I make my own bleach from salt to use as a steriliser. (How to make bleach/steriliser post coming soon)
From the list above you can see that you can probably get away with things you already have in your kitchen.
Elderflower Cordial Ingredients
- 2 teaspoons of citric acid – Buy 100g from Amazon for £1.26 – Recipe cost approximately £0.11
- 1.5kg of sugar – Available from any supermarket. Cost approximately £0.98
- 1 Lemon(unwaxed is best but not essential) – Available from any supermarket. Cost approximately £0.38 – Our lemon was free as it came from our Lemon Tree.
- 20 Elderflower heads – Free!
- 2.5 pints of boiling water – Almost free!
The total cost of ingredients for the recipe comes to £1.47 for 2.5pints/142cl. Most of this cost is the sugar! This equates to a cost of approximately £0.78 per 75cl as apposed to the supermarket equivalent of £3.00.
Making Elderflower Cordial Process
Step 1 – Add Sugar
Add the 1.5kg of normal sugar to a large sterilized container. We use a wine brewing bucket, but you could use any container large enough to hold all the ingredients. At a push, you may get away with a very large mixing bowl.
Step 2 – Slice Lemon
Take a whole lemon and slice it up. Nothing complicated here, you can make it as rough as you wish. You can see from this photograph that Suzy slices the lemon in half. She then cuts the halves into slices. Our lemon came from our own small lemon tree planted in a pot.
Step 3 – Add lemon
Take your lemon slices and drop them in the container with the sugar.
Step 4 – Add Citric Acid
Add two teaspoons of citric acid to your container.
Citric acid is something you probably don’t see on your usual shopping trip. But it’s handy stuff to have around. It can be used as a natural preservative, to make bath bombs, for cleaning, etc. It has a whole range of uses.
I used to buy Youngs Citric Acid for use in wine making, but cheaper alternatives can be bought online very easily. I found 100g of food grade citric acid on amazon for £1.26. It works out, on average, cheaper to buy citric acid in a larger volume. If you only want to try to make your first batch of elderflower cordial, buying a smaller volume makes more sense and keeps the price down.
Step 5 – Add boiling water to container
Boil up 2.5 pints (1.4 litres) of water and pour it over the sugar, lemon and citric acid.
Step 6 – Stir well
Stir everything in your container well.
Here you are trying to dissolve all the sugar. Keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved and you cannot feel the sugar crunching on the bottom. This is our basic cordial syrup base that we are now going to flavour using the elderflower heads.
Step 7 – Remove any insects from flowerheads.
You probably can’t see any but theres a chance there could be some small bugs in the flowers. Don’t wash them off, you will remove all the pollen, nectar and flavours of the elderflower. Instead, just knock then gently against the side of a sink. As you knock each one off, add them to your cordial base syrup (see next step). If you are using a smaller container than we are, you could reduce the size of the flowerheads with scissors at this point. Just cut off some of the green stems. This isn’t necessary but it will mean you can get more of the flower heads into the fluid. The small flowers is where the flavour is derived from. We are (more precisely “I am”) lazy, so we just throw the whole flowerhead in as is.
Step 8 – Add and stir
When you have added all your elderflower heads to your still hot cordial syrup, give it a good stir. Don’t be shy. Stir them round, push them in and start to extract the flavour.
Step 9 – Stir well
Stir the flower heads into the syrup well. Try to get as much of them in the fluid as possible. If you are using a smaller container, try weighting them down with a plate or saucer. You are trying to get them all covered so as to give up their delightful flavour. Although this is more or less the same as the last step, I wanted to put this picture in as things can look as though it’s all gone a bit wrong. It’s turned into a bit of a brown looking soup. Don’t panic, this is right. It’s just the hot water starting to wilt and break down the structure of the elderflowers. At this stage treat yourself and have a smell. You will already start to smell the sweet aromas of the flowers. Delightful.
Leave this infusing for around 12 hours, and feel free to stir every time you pass the container by.
Step 10 – Prepare to strain out solids
We use a plastic mixing bowl with a piece of muslin stretched over the top. You could use any container to strain into as long it will hold more than 2.5 pints. You could strain through a fine sieve if you don’t have a piece of muslin.
Step 11 – Prepare sterilised bottles
Any bottle works as long as it’s cleaned and sterilised. Glass works best, but you could use plastic bottles saved from soft drinks. We like using swing top glass bottles as they are easier to sterilise, and have a great seal on the flip top.
Subnote: Be aware when buying swing top bottles. Almost all of them specify they cannot be pressurised. This isn’t an issue for cordials, wines, infused oils, Sloe Gin, etc but if you are going to make some elderflower champagne it’s well worth buying bottles that can take carbonated liquids. However, as these bottles tend to be a lot thicker to take the pressure, they cost a lot more and can be difficult to find. If you buy any bottles and they don’t specifically say they are suitable for carbonated drinks, then presume they aren’t.
Step 12 – Remove large bits and let strain
Take out of much of the bigger bits as possible. We just use a spaghetti spoon to scoop them out. Place them onto your strainer and just let them sit a few moments to allow any liquid to drain off.
While you’re waiting, smell the fluid in your main container. Isn’t that just a gorgeous smell. At this stage I can’t help taking a very small amount on a teaspoon and tasting it. Be aware, this is undiluted cordial so it will be very strong and very sweet so try just a little. Go on, you know you want to.
Step 13 – Get ready to strain the rest of the liquid
You should now be at this stage. All the big bits have gone but you have a lot of the small flower heads left.
Remove all the larger bits from your strainer (they can go on the compost heap or your green waste bin). It’s handy at this stage to make sure your strainer is secure as you will probably need both hands free to lift your container of cordial and pour it.
Step 14 – Strain the remaining smaller bits
Just slowly poor your cordial through your strainer to catch all those smaller bits that are left over. Once you have finished pouring into the strainer, let it sit a few moments to allow all the fluid to drain off.
Step 15 – Cordial is finished.
I added this image so you can see what the resulting cordial looks like. Comercial cordial will look much clearer, but this is because they can filter much finer particles out than we can at home.
Step 16 – Bottle
Pour your wonderful concoction into your prepared bottles. We find it easier to use a funnel but you could simply just use a jug. Be careful you don’t get it everywhere at this stage. It’s a very sugary syrup so will make everything sticky if you spill it. It’s not difficult to clean up, it’s just a pain.
Step 17 – Label
Don’t underestimate this step. Stick labels on your bottles with the name of the cordial and the date made.
Your cordial is ready to be used. Dilute to taste. We like using cheap sparkling mineral water, but plain old tap water works just as well.
Store your cordial in the fridge. It should keep easily for a few months. However, be aware that elderflowers have a natural yeast present on the flowers which can cause the cordial to ferment. (It’s this yeast that is used to great effect to make elderflower champagne). The citric acid should prevent this but be aware it can happen. If you are drinking it regularly, there won’t be an issue, but if it’s left sitting for a week, just release the top for a second to allow any possible pressure build up to release. We don’t want exploding bottles all over the inside of your fridge. In reality I have never found this to be a problem but it’s worth checking your bottles now and then to be sure.
Your elderflower cordial can be used many ways. Use it as:
- A simple squash / cordial with cold water and a few ice cubes on a hot summers day.
- Dilute with water and pour into reusable silicone moulds for homemade ice lollies.
- Use as a mixer – it goes extremely well with gin.
- Use it as a flavouring in an elderflower cheese cake. It’s one of my favourites and tastes absolutely divine. Recipe with photographs to follow on this blog if/when Suzy/I next make(s) one. Be sure to bookmark this page to come back again for the recipe. Or why not follow this website’s posts on twitter or our facebook page to be kept up to date with new blog posts.