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Elderflower Cordial

Every year in the five years since my daughter was born, I’ve been meaning to make another batch of elderflower cordial. You know how it goes, though – time runs away with you and before you know it, those beautiful lacy, creamy blooms have turned brown and withered and you’ve missed the window of opportunity for another year.

This year, thanks to lockdown, I’ve had a little bit more time and a little bit more space to do those smaller things that bring pleasure. A week or so ago, we went out foraging for elderflower, which were just coming into flower from tiny bud. If you look closely at elderflowers, you’ll see how beautiful they are: a filigree of tiny star-like flowers. When the wind blows them from the bush and scatters them on the grass or pavement, it’s like nature’s own wedding confetti…and beautifully fragranced to boot.

There’s a lot of stuff you can do with elderflower, but cordial is, I think, my favourite. It’s so versatile. My dad likes a bit of elderflower syrup poured over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It’s also great to add to strawberries (leave them to steep in the syrup for a little while and you’ll discover a taste sensation). Add to prosecco for a grown up taste of summer, splosh a bit in with lemonade or fizzy water, or just plain old water from the tap. Anything goes.

Strictly speaking this is a Mary Berry recipe, but I’ve tweaked it to maximize the elderflower flavour. You’ll need to act pretty quickly on this because the elderflowers have almost finished and before you know it, they’ll be elderberries. And that’s a whole new post.

This makes about 2.5 litres of syrup, remembering this syrup/cordial will want diluting if you’re drinking it with water, and a little goes a long way.

You will need:

  • 1.5kg sugar
  • 3 lemons
  • Approx 50 elderflower heads
  • 50g citric acid*
  • 2 campden tablets*

*available online. I got mine in Wilko

  1. Start by giving your elderflower heads a wash. Fill a washing up tub with cool water and dip the heads into the water, giving them a gentle swish to rid them of any bugs.
  2. Put the sugar into a large pan with 1.5 litres of water and bring it to the boil until the sugar has dissolved. It will look clear and you won’t be able to see any grains of sugar on a spoon when you dip it in and lift it out again. Remove it from the heat and cool completely.
  3. Slice the lemons thinly and throw them into a large bucket or plastic box (preferably with a lid) along with the citric acid, campden tablets and elderflower heads, making sure you trim off as much stalk as possible from the elderflower. Be careful with campden tablets as they release a gas which is an irritant if you inhale it, so stand back).
  4. Add the cooled sugar syrup, cover and leave for a minimum of 48 hours and up to 72 hours for a stronger flavour.
  5. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth or a clean tea towel into steralised bottles and store in the fridge.



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