Served over ice, elderflower cordial is the essence of English summer. This easy recipe makes enough for four standard (750ml) wine bottles but is simple to scale up, and can be used to make sorbet, ice cream, fruit jellies and other summer delights. The cordial can be kept for four to six weeks in the fridge or for a whole year in the freezer, but if you want to store it for longer on the shelf it can be preserved using camden tablets.
For a lightly alcoholic elderflower drink, try making elderflower champagne – a seasonal highlight for many homesteaders.
For 3L (just over five pints) of elderflower cordial, you will need 30 heads of elder flowers, 2kg (4lb 6oz) of sugar, 2 lemons and 50g (1¾ oz) citric acid, which you can get from most pharmacies and homebrew supply shops. You will also need a large plastic bowl or fermentation bucket, a lid or clean tea towel (dish towel) to cover it, and some screw-top bottles to put the cordial in.
How to make elderflower cordial
- Pick thirty young flower heads, where the flowers are open but have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll get pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant.
- Put the elderflower heads into the large plastic bowl or bucket, along with the sugar and citric acid. Cut the two lemons in half, juice them, and then throw both the juice and the skins into the bucket with everything else.
- Pour over two litres (three and a half pints) of boiling water, stir until all the sugar has dissolved, and then cover lightly with a lid or a clean tea towel.
- Leave the bucket for three days to infuse, stirring well once a day, and then remove the fruit and flowers with a slotted spoon.
- Pour through a seive or straining bag (a straining bag is better because it will remove even tiny pieces of debris and bugs).
- Pour into bottles that have previously been sterilised. For glass bottles this means heating them in the oven and leaving them to cool (as you would jam jars), but for plastic bottles swilling round some boiling water in them is sufficient.
Storing elder flower cordial
Home made elderflower cordial can be stored in the fridge for four to six weeks, but if you want to keep it for longer you can freeze it for up to a year. If so, leave 7cm (3″) of air space at the top of the bottle so that there is no risk of it exploding in the freezer. If you don’t want to freeze the cordial, then you can use camden tablets to preserve it instead. Camden tablets are available from homebrew outlets, and you need to add half a crushed tablet to the recipe above at step 5, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Elderflower cordial preserved in this way should store well for a year in a cool, dark place, using sterilised glass bottles only. Once a bottle is opened it should be moved to the fridge and used within four to six weeks.
Note that camden tablets generate sulphur dioxide in the cordial, so allow a few days for the sulphur taste to disappear before you drink any. If you are using camden tablets and wish to scale the recipe up, allow one crushed camden tablet per gallon of cordial.
Elderflower champagne from cordial
You can also use your cordial to make champagne when you don’t have fresh flowers to hand, using our ‘elderflower champagne from cordial’ recipe.
Elderflower sorbet recipe
- Mix 165ml (¾ cup) of elderflower cordial and 300ml (1¼ cup) of water and cool until half frozen in a large glass bowl.
- Remove from the freezer and beat the mixture to a smooth slush.
- In a separate bowl, beat an egg white until it is stiff and fold it into the softened cordial/water mixture.
- Refreeze until firm. For added smoothness you can beat it once more as it cools, but this is not essential.
- Scoop out and serve in chilled bowls with a sprig of mint – or for a decadent twist, drizzle with a little chilled tequila.