Elderflower Cordial Recipe

The sweetly scented, creamy-white flowers of the elder tree appear in abundance in hedgerows, scrub, woodlands and wasteland at the beginning of summer. The fresh flowers make a terrific aromatic cordial. They are best gathered just as the many tiny buds are beginning to open, and some are still closed. Gather on a warm, dry day (never when wet), checking the perfume is fresh and pleasing. Remember to leave some flowers for elderberry picking later in the year.

This recipe is quick, simple and delicious. You will need:

  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons plus their juice
  • 1kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
  • 5 litres water

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with lemon zest.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and lemon zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or clean tea towel and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

The cordial is ready to drink straight away and will keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Or freeze it in plastic containers or ice cube trays and defrost as needed.

Dilute with water for a refreshing summer drink, add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.