Oh, I love it when the elderflowers are dripping from the trees, it means summer is on the way. Also, it means it is time to make Elderflower Cordial, the best and most refreshing drink of the summer. Do note though, the season for making this is short—late May to mid-July if you live in the north of Scotland.
I am often asked, how can I tell they are elderflowers, just get your nose up close to the tree, they will give off a heady unmistakable scent, see the image after the recipe for a closer look. I would only pick elderflowers that you are allowed to (no nipping over the neighbour’s fence). If you can, avoid any near a busy road as they may be tainted. Pick them on a dry day and get cracking straight away, they don’t keep their scent, and it is that you want in the cordial, so the more, the merrier.
30 – 40 large elderflower heads
1 kg granulated sugar
1.5 litres cold water
4 large unwaxed organic lemons
55 g citric acid (available from a chemist and some supermarkets)
- Clean the flowers by holding the stem and shaking gently over a sheet of newspaper to release any dust or tiny creatures hiding in the petals.
- Put the water to boil in the largest pan you have. If you have no large pans, don’t worry, you can boil the water and tip it into a clean bucket or large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to help it to dissolve.
- Grate the rind from the lemons and add to the sugar-water syrup. Slice the rindless lemons into chunky slices. Add to the syrup and the citric acid and stir the whole lot with a wooden spoon. Finally, add the cleaned flower heads, pinching off any excess stalk as you go. Give it another good stir and clover with a clean tea towel.
- Leave the cordial to steep in a cool, but not cold, place for 48 hours.
- Strain the cordial through a fine sieve, or a colander lined with a muslin cloth. Throw away the flowers and lemons and decant your cordial into pretty, clean screw-top bottles. Store somewhere cool and dark for a week or so and the cordial is ready to drink. Once opened, store in the refrigerator.
- If you aren’t going to drink the cordial straight away, I would suggest decanting into small plastic bottles and freezing. Mine rarely lasts long enough to freeze as we love it! I like to serve it with ice-cold tonic water and an added slice of lemon.
The cordial can also be used in jellies, pannacotta, salad dressings. You can even pop a few flower heads into a jar of caster sugar and leave it to infuse, it is awesome then used in icing, ice creams.