Food for Free: Elderflower Cordial

ElderflowersOur half-acre plot is surrounded by mature trees, including several elders that are currently blossoming in a profusion of heady-smelling, cream-coloured flowerheads. Rather than just admiring them this year and thinking – afterwards, of course – that I should have made elderflower cordial, last weekend I dug out my recipe, buckets and ingredients, made a special trip to the chemist for citric acid, picked a selection of the flowers and had it made in minutes. The recipe I used comes via my mother, who noticed one of her students drinking a bottle of elderflower cordial last summer and got her mum’s recipe for me. Ever since then it’s been sitting on the kitchen mantelpiece, just waiting for some elderflowers – and a little motivation!

There were tastings along the way, random teaspoonfuls here and there, as I tried to gauge the strength of the brew. I eventually strained and bottled the results after three days-worth of steeping. According to the recipe, this keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks or, if you don’t think that you will use it up in that time, just freeze it in ice cubes, ready to be landed into a jug of water on a hot day. It’s the scent of summer in a glass even if – as today – the rain is driving down.

Elderflower Cordial
You should be able to find citric acid – used here as a preservative – in your local chemists but, if you can’t get your hands on it, then use a tablespoon of white wine or cider vinegar instead.

Elderflower heads – 10
Caster sugar – 1lb 12oz
Water – 1½ pints boiled and slightly cooled
Lemon – 1, washed and thinly sliced
Citric acid – 1oz

Give the elderflower heads a gentle shake to make sure that there are no spiders or creepy crawlies living in them.

Put the caster sugar in a large bowl or small bucket and pour over the still-warm water. Stir well and add the sliced lemon, citric acid and elderflower heads. Cover and leave for 2 to 3 days, stirring occasionally.

Strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Use immediately, diluted with water to taste, or store in clean, sterilised bottles in the fridge for up to two weeks. It also freezes very well. The cordial is particularly good diluted with sparkling water.


Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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5 Responses

  1. oooooooo lovely, I’ve a bottle of m&s organic elderflower cordial downstairs and it’s gorgeous, would say this is even better, wonder where I can get elderflowers………………………

  2. Caroline says:

    Where do you live, Rachel? They’re on every ditch down in North Cork at the moment, you just can’t avoid them!

  3. I’m in Meath, Caroline, but the husbag thinks he knows where we can get some of these, wonder are they safe to use??? Am thinking road germs et al!

  4. Karl says:

    Hey! Long time no speaky my dear…great Blog as ever. We actually made our very first (Sligo) Elderflower Cordial recently (after too many years of threatening to) and used a spoonful of Aspall’s Organic Cyder Vinegar instead of the Citric Acid and it worked a treat – we also only had time to steep for 24 hours but the flavour was wonderfully fresh and strong with a little bit of an exciting earthy ‘hedgerow’ bite – the only mistake was that we didn’t make enough so roll on next May/June 😉

  5. Caroline says:

    That’s good to know, Karl. Will definitely try that for next time. I was hoping to make Elderflower Champagne as well but the weather was not very favorable for flower picking – as far as I know, you’re supposed to pick them on a calm, sunny day so that you get the maximum amount of pollen. I rather think that the most of the elderflower pollen around here was either being washed or blown off. Still, always good to have a project planned for the next elderflower season!

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