I love June, gardens and hedgerows suddenly explode with life, colour and delicious scents. I always get excited when I see the flowers of the Elder bushes as it means one thing….
You can buy elderflower cordial at any time of year, but I get huge satisfaction from making my own, and it’s very easy. It’s such a lovely, refreshing summer time drink. I like it served with lots of ice, fizzy water and a slice of lemon, but you can do lots of other things with it too.
This recipe makes a cordial which is zingy and not too sweet. Here’s how to make it:
1. Gather your flowers.
This is my favourite part, taking my basket and a pair of scissors on a trip around the Somerset Lanes.
Make sure you’re gathering the right thing. Elderflowers grow on a bush. Cowparsley and Cowbane have similar sprays of white flowers but grow on stems from the ground. The white plants in the picture above are cowparsley, the bush below is elderflower (yes, the out of focus one….I was actually photographing the nettles).
Elderflowers have little yellow stamen like this:
It’s good practice when you’re foraging, not to take more than you need. And if you find a bush with lots of flowers, don’t take them all. Take some from one bush and then find another. The bees love it and we want to leave enough pollen for them.
I wanted enough for two batches so took about 40 flower heads from various bushes. I had to go for a long walk to find them all…..what a hardship ; ).
2. Once you’ve gathered them all, put them in the sink and give them a good rinse in cold water to get rid of any lurking beasties. I had to rescue a poor bee from mine (he was fine, once he dried out).
Remove the main bit of the stalk and any leaves, and put 20 heads into a large bowl.
3. Get a saucepan out and put in 2 1/2 pints of water with 500g of caster sugar. If you have a very sweet tooth, you can add more sugar, but I don’t like mine too sweet.
Heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has gone clear.
4. Add in a 50g box of Citric Acid (you can buy this from behind the counter of a pharmacy. They’ll probably ask you what you want it for, (i’m not sure what badness you can get up to with citric acid, I keep meaning to google it).
Also put in the juice and zest from two un-waxed lemons and one lime. The lime’s not essential, but I think it gives the cordial a little extra ‘zing’.
5. Bring the solution to the boil for a minute and then pour it over the elderflower heads.
Cover it and leave it to steep for 24 hours. Enjoy the smell as you walk past the bowl.
6. Now you just need to strain and bottle your mixture. I strained my first batch through a single layer of muslin, but had to do it again as there were still bits in it. The second lot I just strained through a double layer and it was fine. Give the muslin a squeeze to make sure you’ve got all the juice out.
7. Then pour the mixture into some sterilised bottles or jars (you can sterilise them by putting them through the dishwasher). I only had gin bottles to hand, don’t judge me…..gin bottles are very astheticaly pleasing and hard to part with!
8. Enjoy. Pour yourself a glass with fizzy water, lots of ice and a slice of lemon. Absolute bliss!
Keep the cordial in the fridge and it should be good for about six weeks. I’ve put some in the freezer (just make sure not to fill the bottle/jar completely as it will expand and you don’t want broken glass and wasted cordial). I love having something nice and homemade to take to peoples houses when we visit, it makes a nice alternative to a bottle of wine or box of chocolates.
If you’d like a copy of the illustrated recipe, you can download it from my website by clicking HERE and scrolling to the bottom of the page. (The Download is for personal use only. Although you can print it as many times as you like, please don’t use it for commercial or marketing puropses in part or whole without my written permission.)
You can also find it in my Zazzle shop on tea towels, cards and as a physical print, just click HERE.
Or in my Redbubble shop as prints, stickers, on clothing, postcards, notebooks and bags. Just click HERE.
Let me know if you have a go at making it and how you get on.