Saturday, June 18, 2022

Elderflower cordial

We were in the countryside a couple of weeks ago and there were elderflower trees all around us, wherever we looked. They were in full bloom and so incredibly beautiful.

I am no expert forager, far from it, but I couldn’t help but pick some to make elderflower cordial.

As I was picking the creamy elderflowers, a purple elderflower tree caught my eye. It was the first time I had ever seen this kind of elderflower, and instantly I decided to use those pinkish-purple blooms instead of the white.



The result was a stunning, coral-colored syrup that becomes almost fluorescent when the sunlight comes through it. I flavored it with Greek honey and lemon, and the aroma and taste was intense and floral and so very much addictive.

I’ve been drinking it diluted in sparkling water and a few ice cubes non stop; I’ve made a dessert with roasted strawberries and elderflower whipped cream, and this weekend I’m planning to make an elderflower cake.


If you’ve never made cordial before, let me assure you, this is an easy one to try. You just submerge the flowers in a basic sugar syrup flavored with lemon and honey, and allow to stand for twenty-four hours. You then strain it and it’s ready to use in any way you prefer. In drinks, alcoholic or not, ice cream, desserts of all kinds. 



Elderflower cordial / concentrate

You need to pick fresh and plush elderflowers on a sunny, dry day, and use them preferably a few hours after you have picked them. Don’t wait too long or they will lose their fragrance.

You can refrigerate them or even freeze the elderflower heads (stored in a plastic bag), but I’ve never done that myself; I just trust Mary Berry when she says so.

Give them a gentle toss but don’t shake them, so that any bugs will fly out, and leave them on the counter. Hopefully, if there’s any bugs left, they will crawl out. Don’t rinse or wash the flowers as you will remove the valuable pollen that gives flavor.

Trim as much of the thick stalks as you can. 


Yield: about 2 liters


15-20 pink/purple elderflower heads (mine were on the smaller side) - see above how to prepare them – sub with white/cream-colored ones if you can’t find pink

1 liter water

4 Tbsp clear, runny honey (I used Greek, flower honey)

500 g caster sugar

2 organic, unwaxed lemons (zest of 2 lemons / juice of 1 lemon / slices of 1 lemon)


Special equipment: large saucepan with lid, large fine sieve, muslin cloth or coffee filter or good quality kitchen paper, large glass jars with lids (which you need to sterilize – see here how to do it)



In a large saucepan, add the sugar, water and honey and bring to the boil over a high heat, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to a rolling boil, take the pan off the heat and finely grate the zest of the 2 lemons straight into the saucepan (so the invaluable lemon oils go into the syrup). Then, add the juice of 1 of the lemons; slice the other lemon and add it to the saucepan. Mix and then add the elderflower heads, upside down. Submerge them gently in the syrup, one by one, leaving the stalks outside of the syrup yet making sure the flowers are fully submerged. Put the lid on the saucepan and allow the syrup to infuse for 24 hours.

The next day, remove the flowers and lemons from the cordial using a slotted spoon. Place a muslin cloth (or a coffee filter or good quality kitchen paper) over a fine sieve set over a large bowl, and pass the syrup through it. Allow the cordial to gently and slowly strain into the bowl underneath. Don’t push the flowers or your cordial will end up muddy and not clear. Once ready, transfer the cordial into sterilized glass jars. Keep refrigerated before and after use. The unsealed jars of homemade elderflower cordial will keep for up to 6 months. Once opened, the cordial keeps for 1-2 months in the fridge. You can also freeze it into cubes and use it when you need to.


1 comment:

  1. I so wish we had elderflowers here in Tucson. I have wanted to try so many recipes that call for the blossoms. Someone told me that the cooperative extension has some in their test gardens - maybe they will let me have some of their flower heads!?