So how do you make a classic elderflower cordial? This cordial is a summer must have in your fridge and it’s so easy to make! Drizzle it over ice cream, make into a refreshing lemonade, or mix into a fancy cocktail for you and your husband as an aperitif before dinner. The possibilities are endless with this one and it’s very easy to make! But first… you need to locate an elderflower tree for those beautiful white clusters of dainty flowers.
What is a cordial?
Cordial has a few different meanings, but I’m attaching this to the traditional meaning, which was used to describe a sweeter medicinal tonic. In the U.K. a class cordial is a non alcoholic syrups that are typically added to cocktails. A cordial is made like a simple syrup with a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, and steeping the flowers for at least 24 hours, but has citric acid included to stabilize it.
Harvesting the flowers
Easy to come by in the UK all the way up to Scotland, the peak of these beautiful elderflowers are from May to June, and they produce those tart elderberries later in the fall, as you may know from taking elderberry syrup. I live in Texas, and there are a few trees, but not as abundant in the English countryside. A few notes on harvesting them..
Make sure the flowers are actually from an elderberry bush. Don’t pick anything with out properly identifying it. My favorite foraging book is Foraging For Idiots by Mark Vorderbruggen. For example, hemlock is a poisonous lookalike, so be very careful. Elderflowers are cream colored, not white.
Make sure to pick them in the morning on a sunny and dry morning. You don’t want any morning dew on them. And when you do, ask Elder Mother for permission. According the flower folklore, the silence in response grants you permission to harvest some flower heads. But don’t strip the tree..
Use them within a few hours or they will wilt and lose their aroma!
Don’t wash them off! The pollen is what yields that gorgeous smell and taste.
Yes there are bugs, lots of them, but shake them off, or simply lay the flower heads on a sheet pan with wax paper, and let them crawl out. Don’t eat the bugs, but more importantly, don’t eat the green stems. Pick the flowers off the stems, they are toxic.
What does elderflower taste like?
Elderflower reminds me of a lychee. It’s sweet, a little floral, very hard to describe, but not as fragrant as lilac, for example. That’s why, it adds a floral dimension to drinks, over something plain, like vanilla ice cream, or as a flavoring to a simple white cake. It especially makes a delicious class elderflower cordial! You’ll notice the botanical flavor of something, but you can’t put your finger on it. But hey, it’s fun to work with and also fun to tell your guests that there is elderflower in their cake!!
Some important things to note...
- If you want the cordial to remain stable, use citric acid. Citric acid is an effective preservative, obtained from naturally occurring organic acids. I order mine from Mountain Rose Herbs because it’s Non GMO, USP grade and is soluble in water and alcohol.
If you want to make this quickly, you can make a simple syrup which is a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar, and steeping the elderflowers for an hour. There are no lemons or citric acid involved, and you should consume the syrup within three weeks. Keep it refrigerated.
It’s important to allow the sugar to dissolve completely in the water, but don’t bring it to a boil. I have found the best way is to dissolve the sugar, let it cool, then pour that mixture over the lemons and elderflower in a jar and let it steep for 48 hours. There are other variations that are perfectly find to use as well. Do what works best for you for this classic elderflower cordial!
So, now you know how to make a classic elderflower cordial! Enjoy! XO
How to Make a Classic Elderflower Cordial
This classic elderflower cordial is a summer must have in your fridge and it’s so easy to make! Drizzle it over ice cream, make into a refreshing lemonade, or mix into a fancy cocktail for you and your husband as an aperitif before dinner. The possibilities are endless with this one and it’s very easy to make!
- Prep Time30 min
- Cook Time5 min
- Total Time35 min
- Ready in2 days
For the burger
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups sugar
- 15-20 elderflower heads
- 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Juice from 1 lemon
Preparing the spices
Harvest the fresh flowers. Only pick them if you are 100% sure you have identified elderflower. Shake off any bugs, and pick off the green stems. They are toxic, so minimize them at best!
Zest the lemons and juice into a bowl with the citric acid
Meanwhile, bring the sugar and water to a boil making sure it all dissolves well. Take it off the heat, and let the syrup cook so it’s luke warm
Place the flowers and lemon mixture in a jar, and pour the sugar water over it. Let it sit for 48 hours minimum to macerate
Strain it off through muslin or three layers of cheesecloth into a clean mason jar. Keep it sealed and stored in the fridge
Add to sparkling water, cocktails, or drizzle over ice cream. The possibilities are endless!