How to Make Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial is an annual make in our house – so delicious! Flowers move fast from bud to bloom to berry so get in quick.

Elder flower harvest

I like the flavour of the last flush of flowers that come about now, rather than the first ones in December.

Flowers are perfect when nearly all the little flowers have opened to creamy white perfection. Pick them on dry morning, after dew has gone but before things heat up. Give each flower a very gentle shake to dislodge insects and put them carefully in your basket, right side up. Make your cordial right away to capture that delicate flavour.

This recipe is from Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, its the one I’ve always used. The only thing I’ve changed is to reduce the sugar from a whopping 5 cups down to 2.5.

For 1.5 litres of cordial

25 elder flower heads
zest and juice of 3 lemons and 2 oranges
6 1/2c boiling water
2.5c raw sugar

elderflower heads and lemon zest in a bowl ready to pour boiling water over

Put the flower heads in a bowl with the citrus zest and juice

Cover with boiling water and using a wooden spoon, gently tamp the heads beneath the water. Put a clean tea towel or bit of muslin over the bowl and leave to infuse for 24 hours.

Cover the elderflower brew and leave for 24 hours

The next day, sterilise bottles and lids. Leave bottles in the oven so they are hot when filling.

Strain cordial through a nut milk bag or bit of muslin into a pot. Add sugar + lemon and orange juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar then simmer for a few minutes. Taste and add more sugar if need be.

Elderflower cordial bottled and labelled

Pour the hot syrup into hot bottles and seal.

Shelf life: I don’t count on this lasting past summer so don’t go the usual route of adding citric acid, which I think ruins the flavour. If you want to make enough to last all year, use small bottles and put them through a waterbath for 20 minutes, timed from boiling.