Making Elderflower cordial brings out my inner Barbara Good and gives me nostalgic warm and fuzzies (just me?) During May & into early June I keep a look out for the first signs of the flowers opening. There will be nothing one day and then seemingly overnight the hedgerows are full of their big frothy heads. Typically, I’m not prepared and it sets me in a sugar & lemon buying spin. Thankfully the hedge at the bottom of our field is north facing so the elderflowers are usually a week or two behind.
Elderflowers are funny peculiar. They can smell amazing one day and like cats pee the next. Some don’t smell at all outside but then release their fragrance as soon as you get them indoors. There are lots of different recipes and advice on how to make cordial out there. This is mine to add to the mix.
Some people say you should only pick the flowers early in the morning and on a sunny day. Getting the opportunity to get outside with enough time to pick flowers, in the morning and on a sunny day in North Yorkshire is practically impossible. I don’t pick in the rain – mainly as I have to reach up to get the flowers and would then get lots of water running down my arms. I’m not really sure if wet flowers would have any effect on the flavour. If I didn’t mind getting wet I would try it one day.
Most recipes I’ve found specify a certain quantity of flowers – usually 15-20 heads per 1.5 litres of water. I find that the elderflowers I pick have varying sizes of head so instead I try to get loosely a half full supermarket carrier bag (the thin 5p kind). If in doubt pick more!
You need to pick over the heads a bit to remove any leaves and brown bits. I also try to pull off as much of the storks as I can too. Then chuck the heads into a bucket with 2-3 lemons cut up into quarters (& maybe an orange if I have one to use up). Again, you might see lemon zest in some recipes – I have no time for zesting lemons so have never done it.
This year I have managed some pre-planning and bought a lot of lemons back in April when they were on the Aldi Super 6 promotion. I washed, chopped and froze them ready to just add into the bucket as needed.
Add 1.5 litres of boiling water, give everything a good stir & poke the flowers below the water as much as possible, then leave covered in a cool place for at least 24 hours (you can leave for 48 if you want but don’t forget about them!).
You then have time to buy sugar and if you want to use it, some Citric Acid. You’ll need about 800g to 1kg of sugar to every 1.5litres of water. Citric acid is used as a preservative. Without it the cordial will last in the fridge for 4-6 weeks or you can freeze it. Citric acid can be a bit tricky to find but you can usually get it in pharmacists or anywhere selling home brewing equipment such as Wilkos.
Once the 24 hours are up, you need to strain out the flower heads by running the mixture through a muslin bag. You can buy special straining kits, or just use an old (washed) muslin cloth or fine weave tea towel. Up end a small chair or stool onto a table and use elastic bands to hold the muslin in place. Strain into a large saucepan.
The sugar and citric acid is then added to the strained liquid, heat slowly and stir until the sugar is all dissolved. Don’t be tempted to rush this bit! Once all the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat and give the liquid a good boil for a minute. Then leave to cool slightly before carefully pouring into prepared bottles. Ideally glass bottles are best to use as you can sterilise them in the oven in the same way as you would jam jars.
Then enjoy! Apart from just drinking it, I like to make elderflower & prosecco jelly. (You can also add the cordial straight to prosecco too obviously!)
I’m now thinking about what else to make while the flowers are still out…
Elderflower Gin tempt anyone??