Elderflower cordial: simple summer pleasure in a bottle

Elderflower cordial is my favourite soft drink – diluted with several glugs of sparkling water, a few chunks of ice and a wedge of lemon – a fab way to cool off on a hot day in London.

I’ve been waiting for the Elderflowers to show themselves, and with all the sunshine there’s been lately there’s been a magnificent local display of the simple white flowers.

I felt like I ought to be wearing a straw hat, wearing a billowing white broderie anglaise sundress and carrying a wicker basket as I gathered elderflowers from the hedgerow in the little cut-through behind Sam’s school.

The reality was jeans and a t-shirt and a few carrier bags – but nevertheless if felt good to be foraging in the bushes of West London.

We wondered if the middle-class craze for making your own elderflower cordial might have had the flowers in short supply, but I think I found a pretty hidden spot.

Making the cordial is a very simple process and after looking at several recipes I decided to go with one my mother-in-law had written down. She’d sampled some before and assured me it was delicious.

There’s something great about making things in a bucket so big you could bath a baby in it.

I left the ingredients to steep for four days to get maximum flavour, and when I unwrapped it the fragrance was really sweet and inviting.

Straining it into a large bowl with a jelly bag on a frame was definitely the easiest way to manage such large amounts of swampy liquid. I used a jelly-strainer from Lakeland which did a grand job of straining out all the nasties. I did a quick test with a fine sieve to see how it would compare and all kinds of rubbish came through.

I’m hoping to make lots of jellies this year with grapes and redcurrants from the allotment, so it feels worth the investment of £14.99.

The cordial itself is really delicious – slightly different to the stuff you buy in the shops – kind of fresher and greener tasting, less syrupy. And there’s so much of it – over six litres.

As well as drinking it and giving some away as gifts, I also aim to use it in some exciting recipes in the coming weeks so watch this space!


Elderflower Cordial
(Makes 6.5 l)

100 flower heads
6 lemons roughly cut up
100g citric acid
3 litres of warm water
2.5kg granulated sugar

1. Shake off the flower heads to get rid of any black flies and if they’re particularly stubborn give them a bit of a rinse. Trim off any stalks or leaves.

2. Pour the water, sugar and citric acid into a large pan and stir over a low heat until it has all dissolved.

3. In a large plastic container (a huge bucket) place the flower heads and lemons then pour the sugar solution over the top. Mix around and then cover and leave to soak for a minimum of 24 hours and up to five days if you have the patience!

4. Strain your cordial through a piece of muslin, or jelly-bag if you have one and then pour into sterilised bottles and seal. Keep in the fridge for up to 12 weeks, or store in the freezer indefinitely.

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I’m entering this post into Ren at Fabulicious Food‘s new blog event Simple and in Season which aims to showcase as many recipes as possible making the most of the fruit and veg at it’s best right now!

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About Katie Bryson

Katie Bryson is a freelance food writer and blogger. She left a career in online news at the BBC to immerse herself in the culinary world, taking in courses at Leiths School of Food and Wine and an internship at Waitrose along the way. Her family food blog www.feedingboys.co.uk is bursting with recipes and tips for feeding hungry families that’ll help inspire all those frazzled parents out there wondering what on earth to cook for tea! She lives in West London with her two young boys and yes, her firefighter husband.
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11 Responses to Elderflower cordial: simple summer pleasure in a bottle

  1. Rosemary Hamilton says:

    Having been one of the lucky ones to be given a bottle I felt I must leave a comment, but no problem as it is lovely! The aroma when opening the bottle whets ones appetite and the flavour is not a disappointment. Only problem is ,the more you drink the less there is left in the bottle! Many thanks Katie.

  2. kat says:

    Mine is steeping right now!

    Love your labels – did you make them yourself?

  3. James says:

    The sounds great, but i am jealous. I have looked everywhere near my home, and I can’t find any 😦 I must live in the only place where there are not any elderflowers!

    Enjoy a lovely refreshing drink during the summer!! Great to put a splash in a Gin and Tonic too 🙂

    • Katie Bryson says:

      Hi James – what a shame you can’t find any Elderflowers – I wasn’t expecting to find them in my part of town so feel pretty lucky!
      Thanks for the tip for the G+T – having friends over for dinner tomorrow and that will be a great aperitif 🙂

  4. I’ve tasted it and know for a fact it’s delicious. Can’t wait to try my own now. Would make great ice lollies too! Good work Katie.

    PS – Think it would go down a storm at the local Farmers’ Markets.. get yourself a pitch!

  5. Dear Katie, thank you so much for entering your post into Simple and in Season! It’s wonderful. I love the fact that you used your mother-in-law’s hand-writted recipe and I have taken note of James’ comment to add a splash into a G&T. Thanks again! Ren x

  6. Sally says:

    We had a huge elderberry tree at the bottom of the garden when I was a child so this fills me with nostalgia. Not that we made cordial – my parents made elderberry wine!

  7. Helen says:

    What a superb way of using elderflowers. My mum used to make elderflower champagne and indeed it was fabulous. The only problem was (and I think it was because you couldn’t accurately gauge the amount of pollen on the flowers – and I believe that’s the ingredient that produces the fizz), there was no way of controlling the amount of fizz in the bottle, which could at times cause the bottles to explode, or if not, when opened the whole bottle of champagne literally fizzed its way uncontrollably out of the neck. Thanks for the recipe. Helen.

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