Wednesday, 25 May 2011

How to make elderflower cordial

The delightful elder bush, hobbit of suburban wastelands, city streets and country hedges, comes into full bloom at this time of year. I've been a bit slow at getting my act together to get on the case with filling up our elderflower champagne and cordial stocks, but last weekend I squeezed it in before the blooms had passed their best.

The best time to pick the flowers is in the morning when the sun is out in full force and the bushes have just burst into flower, as this is when the smell and flavour is at it’s finest. Avoid any with a darker or brown colour as these can turn your cordial foul. Cut the flower-heads as close to the stems as possible using scissors, and make sure you have as little stem as possible in your harvest. Gently shake each flower-head after picking to remove any insects who might be enjoying their breakfast. This is our family recipe for elderflower cordial, one that has been tried and tested for three generations:


1.5l boiling water
1kg white granulated sugar

20 large elderflower heads in the first flush of full bloom

4 lemons
55g of citric acid (this is to preserve your cordial)

  • Take a large, scrupulously clean bowl, bucket or saucepan and stir the sugar into the boiling water until fully dissolved.
  • Leave to cool and then add the citric acid, the juice and zest of the lemons and the elderflower heads. Stir this gently and then leave to steep for 48 hours.
  • Then strain your mixture through a clean muslin cloth into a jug, and use a funnel to pour it into sterilised bottles (I always use the dishwasher to sterilise mine, just make sure you leave it to steam dry)>
  • Once bottled, seal and store. If you used the citric acid, your cordial will keep for four months in the fridge. I often make a second batch in plastic bottles for the freezer to keep myself stocked up right through to the next season.


  1. Mine always goes mouldy after a couple of months. Any tips?

  2. It's all about the Citric acid which if added should preserve your cordial for at least six months. I always make some extra and freeze them in plastic bottles to last throughout the year