In this article, you’ll learn how to make Elderflower Cordial and how to store it for several months.
It’s easy to make and preserves the flavour and scent of Spring for the Winter months.
This recipe was originally published in 2012. It’s had a little ‘spring’ clean, so I’m re-sharing it today with new pics!
The Elderflower in our hedges are back and my homemade elderflower cordial is back on the menu!
I think last years batch ran out towards the end of October.
So it’s been a looooong time coming!
I love this stuff.
The out of season fragrance (if/when I manage to make my stash last till the winter) instantly jets me straight back to these long, warm early summer evenings.
And as always, there’s something extra special about popping the cork on a brew that you picked and preserved yourself.
Are Elderflowers poisonous?
No… and yes.
The flowers are absolutely not poisonous. They are perfectly safe for us all to consume.
However, the leaves and stems of the elder tree contain a compound that can be toxic.
You can find out more on the qualities of this plant here.
There aren’t many plants you can confuse with elderflower.
However, do make sure you are picking them from a tree, as opposed to a stalk.
As there are umbellifers (think cow parsley and hemlock) that have a slightly similar flower head, and may be poisonous.
As you can see in the pic below, the flowers are like little umbrellas.
Elderflowers also smell sweet and florally. (unless you leave a bunch of them in your kitchen overnight, as that sweetness turns to a scent very similar to cats pee!)
How long can you keep homemade elderflower cordial?
If your bottle is sterile, and all your utensils are scrupulously clean, your syrup will last in the fridge for up to three months. (See below for tricks if you’d like to make your cordial last even longer).
The easiest way to sterilise any equipment beforehand is to run it through a dishwasher.
You can also sterilise them in an oven, in a pan of boiling water, or use sterilising tablets such as Milton tablets.
What is in elderflower cordial?
A cordial is an extremely sweet syrup that you can mix with water or alcohol to produce a sweet and fragrant drink.
It can also be used in baking and desserts to give sweetness and a beautiful floral scent and flavour.
You can find the full recipe below, but you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Fresh elderflowers. Ideally pick these on a warm sunny day.
- Sugar. White granulated is fine
- Lemons. As you’re using the peel as well as the juice, try to source organic or unwaxed if possible. If not, scrub first.
- Citric acid. You can find this in chemists, large supermarkets or order online
How to Make Elderflower Cordial or Syrup
In this step by step tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to make a batch of this beautiful syrup.
If you’d rather go straight to the recipe, scroll down to the bottom of this page.
1/ pick your elderflowers
Choose a warm, dry day. Try not to shake the blooms too much, or wash them, as you’ll lose much of the valuable pollen. And it’s the pollen that gives you the most flavour.
There will likely be bugs in your blooms and you have two options in dealing with them.
1/ you can pick the flowers an hour or two ahead of using them and leave them somewhere cool and hope the bugs crawl away.
2/ you can make the recipe and the bugs will get strained out later.
2/ make a basic syrup
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.
Add the sugar and stip until dissolved.
3/ flavour the syrup
Take the pan off the heat. Add the lemon, elderflowers and citric acid.
Stir well, then cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere cool.
What is citric acid, and do I need to use it when making a cordial?
Citric acid is a naturally occurring compound found in lemons & limes. It is commonly used as a preservative.
Using it in this recipe will help your syrup to stay fresh, and not grow mould.
You can still make a syrup without using citric acid but as it won’t keep very long, you’ll need to use it up within a week.
You may also miss out on a little of the tangy flavour that the acid brings to this cordial.
4/ strain the cordial
Lay a clean piece of muslin in a sieve, resting over a jug.
Pour the contents of the pan into the sieve and let drip through the muslin cloth.
If you let it drip through slowly you will have a clearer jam.
However, if you squeeze the contents of the muslin your jam will be a little more cloudy.
They will both taste the same.
5/ how to bottle up your elderflower syrup
Clean your bottles first in hot soapy water. And then the bottles, and lids, will need sterilising.
You can do this in several different ways;
- Run through a dishwasher cycle. This is by far the easiest method if you have a dishwasher. It will not only wash your glass jars and bottles, but sterilise them too.
- Boil in a large pan of water for 10 minutes. Ensure all parts of the bottle/lids are submerged under the water. When the times is up, remove carefully with kitchen tongs or jar lifters.
- Use a food grade sterilising solution. Milton tablets are used to sterilise babies bottles and also work well at sterilising glass preserving bottles and jars. Follow the directions on the pack to ensure the perfect clean.
Once your elderflower syrup is all safely bottled up, pop on the (sterilised) lid and store somewhere cool, dark and dry.
If you have room in the fridge, this would be the perfect spot. But so long as each step of your process was clean and sterile, they will store perfectly well on a pantry shelf for up to three months.
I have had bottles last much, much longer than this. But the correct advice is to use up your stash within three months.
6/ can I freeze homemade elderflower cordial?
If you wish to have your syrup last for several months or even years, you can freeze it.
Simply decant your cold syrup into sterile plastic bottles or jars. Leave about 1/2 an inch gap at the top as liquids expand when frozen.
You could also freeze the syrup in ice cubes trays if you’d just like to enjoy the occasional glass of elderflower goodness.
Either way, let the syrup defrost before using.
Want more elderflower recipes?
I have a few recipes here on The Hedgecombers for using this pretty wild flower.
You can find all my Elderflower recipes here.
And if you’d like to watch a video I created all about picking elderflowers for cordial, you can watch that here.
I hope you enjoy it!
And if you’re in the mood for more fun foraging projects, now is the perfect time to try out my popular Plantain Salve recipe! It’s so simple, and makes such a useful skin balm to help you through the season ahead.
- 900 ml of boiling water
- 1 kg sugar
- 20 elderflower heads
- 25 g citric acid
- 1 lemon - thinly sliced
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.
Pour in the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Take the pan off the heat and tip in all the other ingredients: the elderflowers, citric acid and lemon zest and slices (including the zest and pips). Stir well.
Cover the pan with a lid or a clean tea towel and leave to steep for between 12 and 24 hours.
Drain through muslin or a nut milk bag into a clean jug.
Then pour into sterilised bottles.
Label your bottles and keep them in the fridge.
If every stage of the brewing process was kept scrupulously clean, your elderflower cordial should last for up to three months in a fridge.
Check periodically, and throw any away that shows signs of mould.
To use, pour 1- 2 cm of cordial in a glass and top up with water.
Add more or less to find your perfect blend.