This is the time of year when beautiful white elderflowers are decorating local hedgerows, parks, & roadsides. Not only do these delicate blossoms look pretty & smell gorgeous, they also make the most delicious cordial. And if you make the cordial now & store it correctly it will keep for many months giving you a taste of Summer throughout the year.
At this time of year Elder trees are easy to spot with the many white flower heads hanging from the branches. If you're wanting to make Elderflower Cordial you'll need to collect around 20 or so of these flower heads. Before collecting them it's important to consider a couple of things; are the flowers growing on a wild tree (i.e. not in someones garden!), is the tree away from a main road, flowers covered with traffic pollution obviously aren't ideal to use.
When we're heading out for a nature walk we usually take a small bag that we can fold up in a pocket just in case we find some elderflowers along the way. When picking the flowers make sure you only collect the fresh white flower heads which have a delicate scent. Any tiny flowers which are brown or have no scent will be no good for making a cordial.
When collecting our flower heads we always make sure there are plenty of other blooms left on the tree for the bees & other wildlife to enjoy.
Ideally your eldeflowers will have lots of yellow pollen which is the key ingredient for our cordial. To prepare the flowers gently shake each flower head to remove any bugs or insects that may be on them. Do not wash the flowers as you'll just be washing the pollen (flavour) away.
To make the cordial you'll need:
20 - 25 prepared elderflower heads
2 large unwaxed lemons
800g caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon of citric acid (available from chemists)
2 large cooking pans (with lids)
A muslin square
3 sterilized glass bottles/containers (We reused some glass lemonade bottles)
To sterilize containers you can either wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them & then place them on a clean baking sheet in an oven (140C or 120C for fan ovens) until completely dry, or sterilize them in a dishwasher.
Add 1.5 litres of cold water to a large pan & bring to the boil.
Finely grate the zest of both lemons (keep the rest of the lemons for later)
Once the water has boiled turn off the heat & add the elderflowers & lemon zest to the water. Remove pan from the oven & place the lid on top. Leave the contents of the pan to infuse overnight.
When you remove the lid from the pan the next day you'll notice the colour of the mixture has changed to a light honey colour. To remove the flowers from the liquid place the muslin square over the empty pan & add the mixture to the muslin using the ladel.
The flowers should sit in the muslin while the liquid drains through.
When you have transferred all the clear liquid add the sugar, the juice from the lemons & the citric acid to the pan & simmer the contents for 5-8mins.
The Elderflower Cordial is now ready to decant into your sterilized bottles. We used a jug to pour the cordial into each of the bottles. The mixture should easily fill three 1 liter bottles with some to spare.
Once cool store your bottles in the fridge, they should keep there for up to 6 weeks... ours didn't last that long! If you wish to keep the cordial for longer you can freeze it (just the cordial no water) in plastic containers or ice-cube trays & use it when required. We froze some of our homemade cordial last year & enjoyed it over the Winter months as a reminder of Summer.
To make a refreshing drink just dilute a splash of cordial with chilled water in a glass, & for a treat why not create your own Homemade Sparkling Elderflower by adding carbonated water instead of still. This tasty homemade recipe has been a winner with all ages & just perfect for Summer parties.
This is a great recipe to make with children (obviously with adult supervision when using the hot liquid) & a lovely reminder of what nature has to offer us if we know where to look.