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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

It's that time of year again - late spring/early summer - and the Elder bushes are in bud here, half way up the west coast of Ireland.  This means I have to make sure that I have all the ingredients I need to make my Elderflower cordial, ready and waiting for when the flowers finally open.

sambucus nigra flowers

Elder bushes, or sambucus nigra, are more like a large shrub, or a small bushy tree, and when the flowers finally open it is for such a short time.  This is a real shame because the blooms are truly beautiful, and so elegant.  The colour of perfect pale cream wedding dresses.

sambucus nigra bush in flower

Wiki page link for sambucus_nigra

The Elder bush has many very well documented medicinal and food uses, which I will write about in my next couple of blog posts.  But for today I wanted to share one of the recipes I use to make Elderflower Cordial, as just maybe you already have the flowers blooming in your area.

Elderflower cordial is simply divine diluted with water, but sparkling water will at that extra special zip !  And for a really heavenly treat, add it neat to vermouth and a slice of lemon.

If you fancy vanilla ice cream, then try it with undiluted Elderflower cordial drizzled over it...

I have several recipes for this cordial, and to be honest this one is probably my favourite.  I'm not sure why, but it keeps well and, for me, that is very important.

If you want to make sure the cordial lasts a long time, pour it into small plastic bottles (small Fanta or Coke bottles are perfect) and freeze it.  Remember to leave at least an inch gap at the top, to allow for the cordial to expand when it freezes.  Take out a bottle at a time to use, and keep it in the fridge once defrosted.

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

(taken from the BBC Good Food website - I adapted this from the original recipe by Jane Hornby)


Elderflower heads - 20 complete heads
White sugar - 5lbs 5ozs (2.5kg)
Organic lemons - 2 (if not organic, then at least unwaxed)
Citric acid - 3ozs (85g)
Water - 2.75 pints (1.5 litres) (preferably with no fluoride or chlorine)


1       Remove most of the zest from the 2 lemons, being careful not to include any of the white pith.  Then slice the lemons.  Put all this to one side for a minute.

2       Trim the flower head stalks, leaving just enough to hold the heads together.  Swish them around gently in a large bowl of cold water.  This is to remove any small wildlife, dust and other unwanted debris.

3        Put the water and sugar together into a large stainless steel saucepan. Simmer gently without boiling, until the sugar has all dissolved and you have a clear sugar syrup.  Stir to prevent bottom sticking and to help the dissolving.

4       Bring the sugar syrup to boiling point now, and once boiling, take it completely off the heat.

5        Put the flower heads, citric acid, lemon zest and sliced lemons into the hot sugar syrup, stirring them well.

6        Cover the saucepan, making sure no insects or dust can get in.  Leave to infuse for 24 to 36 hours.

7        Strain the cold mixture.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a large colander and a clean tea towel.  Line the colander with the tea towel, and place the colander over a very clean bowl.  Pour or ladle the now cold mixture into the colander to drain through into the bowl.  Do NOT press or squeeze the solids to try and get more liquid/cordial out, as this will simply make the cordial cloudy and may also make it slightly bitter.

8        Pour the strained cordial into sterilised bottles; glass if being stored on a shelf or in the fridge, plastic if being stored in a freezer.


* You could also freeze the cordial in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, pop them out and store in bags, taking out only what is required each time.

* It is very important that all utensils and pans etc be properly sterilised.  Failure to do this will result in fungus and other growth inside the bottles, and the cordial will be unusable.

* Storage - in the fridge about 6 weeks, frozen up to 1 year, on a cool shelf maybe 2-4 weeks.

* Alternative flavouring - why not add a vanilla pod to a bottle or two, for  a slightly different flavour.

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