Beverages · Foraging

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

cordial6

I am not a floral person.

Don’t get me wrong… I love flowers!

But floral dresses/curtains/upholstery? Not me.

And floral flavours? Definitely not my thing.

Rosewater in my ice cream? No thank you.

Lavender in my shortbread? I’ll pass…

The one exception to my floral rule? Elderflower. This beautiful, delicately scented flower creates the most delectable summer drink you can imagine.

Add a splash of Elderflower Cordial to sparkling water (or wine!) for a refreshing drink. (OR drizzle over fresh fruit salad or add a dash to stewed fruit, crumbles or fruit pies. Yum!)

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

A light, refreshing cordial - a perfect summer drink!

Ingredients

750g (750ml;   1 pint plus 61/2 fl oz;   3 US cups plus 2 tablespoons) water1

1.25kg (2lbs 12 oz;   61/4 US cups) granulated sugar2

1 lemon, sliced into 5/6 rounds 3

8-10 elderflower heads4

40g (11/2 oz;   3 tablespoons) citric acid5

Directions

Place the sugar and water in a large pot and mix together well. It’s important to mix the sugar and water BEFORE you place the pot on the heat to reduce the risk of the sugar burning.

*Gently* heat the sugar and water (on a low heat) until the sugar is completely dissolved and the solution is absolutely clear (not cloudy), stirring occasionally.

After all the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. Bubble for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Now add the elderflower heads, lemon slices and citric acid to the hot solution. Stir well. Cover and leave for 24 – 48 hours6 to infuse.

Next, line a colander or sieve with some muslin cloth (or a clean tea towel) and sit it over a large bowl or pot. Ladle (don’t pour!) the syrup (and elderflower and lemon slices) into the cloth-lined colander and allow to drip through. This really slow filtration through the cloth should ensure a beautifully clear cordial. (Discard the elderflower and lemon slices left behind in the cloth.)

The cordial can be used immediately. OR it can be transferred into sterilised bottles7. It will keep for at least 12 months in sealed bottles in a cool, dark cupboard.

A whole bunch of notes:

  1. No! That’s not a typo. It correctly reads 750g water. My preference is to measure liquids by weight (rather than volume) for accuracy.
  2. Granulated sugar is regular sugar or table sugar. Slowly dissolving the large crystals of granulated sugar produces a beautifully clear syrup. Caster sugar (or superfine sugar) can also be used.
  3. If possible, use an unwaxed lemon for the best flavour and clearest cordial. If using a regular lemon, scrub the skin in some warm water to remove any wax residue before use. OR throw caution to the wind and just slice and use the lemon without washing… I admit nothing!
  4. Use 8-10 heads of elderflower, each of approximately 10cm in diameter. (I count two small elderflower heads as “one”, if together they measure about 10cm in diameter, across the top. Correspondingly, if I have a very large elderflower head (e.g. 30cm in diameter), I’ll count that as three heads.) Don’t wash or rinse the elderflowers – simply remove any large bugs/spiders by hand when picking. Washing the elderflower will just wash away the pollen (and hence the flavour). Any small bugs hiding on the stems will be filtered out when you strain the cordial.
  5. Citric acid is a powder made from natural fruit acids. It acts as a preserver *and* adds greatly to the flavour of the cordial. It is an ingredient in things like sherbet and adds a pleasant “zing” to the cordial. It’s widely available in chemists/pharmacies, health food stores, home brewing suppliers and online. Make sure to get food or pharmaceutical grade citric acid. Try Home Brew West (Irish supplier) or Home Brew Shop (UK supplier) or Walmart or Bulk Apothecary (US suppliers) or, of course, Amazon! (Note that none of these links are affiliate links. I always purchase citric acid in my local pharmacy. Do shop around to get the best price!) In Ireland (June 2017), a small tub should cost €2 – €3. You can, however, leave out the citric acid if you prefer. Without the citric acid, you rely on the concentrated sugar solution to preserve the cordial. This should be fine for at least 6 months.
  6. Don’t allow the cordial to infuse for more than 48 hours – after this time, the lemon rind can start to give a bitter taste to the cordial.
  7. Sterilising glass bottles/jars is very straightforward. It is simply a way of thoroughly cleaning the bottles/jars to eliminate any bacteria etc which could spoil your cordial. To sterilise your glass bottles/jars, simply run them through a hot wash in the dishwasher. OR wash the bottles/jars in hot, soapy water and place on a baking tray. Put the tray in a cold oven and set the heat to 110C (230F/Gas Mark 1/4). Bake the jars in the oven for about 30 minutes to sterilise them.
  8. Don’t squeeze the cordial through the cloth when straining – that will make the cordial cloudy. (That said, a cloudy cordial is not the end of the world! It will still be perfectly drinkable, but a beautiful, crystal clear cordial is my preference.)

cordial-a1Elderflower Cordial – Summer in a Glass!

General tips on Picking Elderflower:

  • Pick elderflower on a warm, sunny day if possible. The flowers will have the most pollen (and hence most flavour) this way.
  • Pick white/cream coloured flowers. Avoid brown (old) flowers. Avoid buds which are yet to flower – they won’t have a good flavour yet.
  • Place elderflower in paper or cloth bags or baskets, *not* in plastic bags (plastic makes the flowers sweat and discolour).
  • When you get the elderflower home, bag them in plastic sandwich or food storage bags, and put them straight in the freezer to keep their colour and scent. I do this even if I’m planning to use the elderflower within a couple of hours. (Add the elderflowers to the pot straight from the freezer. They keep well in the freezer for at least 2 months!)
  • Click here for further information on where to find elderflower, how to identify elderflower and many other tips.

 

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