elderflower-cordial

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

This scorcher of a summer’s day has sent me scuttling into my cool, dark blogging cave. The sweet, subtlety floral tang of elderflower cordial is on my lips, a perfect pairing with a 35C day.

Forever the victim of romantic rather than practical gardening notions I bought an elderberry in my first year of gardening. It soared skywards, exulting in the chicken yard muck it was rooted in. Three years passed and I never got around to doing anything with the flowers, I moved house with a broken elderberry branch in hand and just sort of stuck pieces of it in the ground. It really suckers like crazy so I was quietly hopeful that something would strike; the result was a mini elderberry forest outside my bathroom window. It is really a delightful plant for a capricious gardener, who flits from whim to whim and neglects everything but the latest obsession (which happens to be a mini lily pond).

My southern elderberry grove has thrived in shade with only the water that dribbles out of the tap. This summer its leaves are tickling the eaves and with base in the shade and tops soaking up the sun it seems to be taller each time I look at it. Its shallow, “non-threatening root system” and low water demand make it a lower risk for planting near the house. It has also thrived in full sun in the food forest when planted in the cooler months. (Not much has relished a high summer planting in full sun.) A fun fact about elderberries is that they are pollinated by flies, so I guess flies aren’t completely useless then. A less fun fact is that the leaves, stalks and stems contain a toxin called sambunigrin, that’s why a fork is part of my utensils list of this recipe. Intrigued? Read on!

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Recipe

Makes 2 Litres (2.75 passata bottles full)

Takes 24 hours

25 Elderflower heads
Peel of 3 lemons + 1 orange
Juice of 3 lemons + 1 orange
1 kg sugar
1 tsp citric acid (optional – Citric acid is a preservative so if you are drinking within 2 weeks and keeping refrigerated it is unnecessary)
1.5 Litres of boiling water

My elderflowers are heavy with blossoms and all the trendiest cafes are serving elderflower soda, seems like a good time to try my hand at making my own. It turned out to be fairly easy, but you need to leave the flowers steeping overnight so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Goes delightfully well with Tortilla de Patatas on a hot summer’s night. I’ve also added it to kombuca for some added fizz.

Elderflowers are antibacterial, antiviral and anticatarral, so with a little luck it will balance out that delicious kilo of sugar. When fighting a cold elderflower tea with a spoon full of honey might be a better medicine.

Your kitchen kit


For harvesting (Basket, Secateurs, Newspaper, Fork)
For infusing (Large bowl, Potato peeler, Sharp knife, Chopping board, Tea towel, Lemon squeezer, Jar (for citrus juice),
For straining (Large strainer, Cheesecloth/muslin, Springform cake tin (optional) – I used this to prop up the strainer while the syrup dripped through as my saucepan was shallow, Tea spoon)
For cooking (Saucepan, Wooden spoon)
For Bottling (Ladle, Sterilised bottles for cordial – I wash with soapy water, put in cool oven on top of tea towel and turn up heat to 150C. When they are dry I turn off oven and leave warm until ready for bottling.)

1. Pick elderflowers that have just opened as they will have the most pollen. If there are still a few unopened buds you will know they are fresh.
Pick elderflowers that have just opened as they will have the most pollen. If there are still a few unopened buds you will know they are fresh.
If you sniff them they should have a pleasant aroma.
If you sniff them they should have a pleasant aroma. A flower that smells of bitter decay will make a drink only Tim Burton would enjoy.
Cut flowers on a warm, dry day as rain washes away the pollen that adds the flavour to the syrup.
Cut flowers on a warm, dry day as rain washes away the pollen that adds the flavour to the syrup.
Spread on paper to allow bugs to leave flowers. You don't want to wash the flowers.
Spread on paper to allow bugs to leave flowers. You don’t want to wash the flowers.

Bugs start leaving the flowers as soon as they are picked to find a happier home.
Bugs start leaving the flowers as soon as they are picked to find a happier home. In 1 hour most of them should have departed.
Stalks are bitter so roughly remove blossoms with a fork.
Stalks are bitter so roughly remove blossoms with a fork.
Pollen adds that floral flavour.
Pollen adds that floral flavour.

Use a fork to remove the flowers from the stalks.
Stalks contain toxins, but many people skip this step and have come to no harm.

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Lemons contain citric acid (preservative) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Lemons contain citric acid (preservative) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Peel citrus thinly as white pith will make it bitter. You can grate the rind as well, but I find peeling easier.
Peel citrus thinly as white pith will make it bitter. You can grate the rind as well, but I find peeling easier. The juice will be added the next day so pour it into a jar and refrigerate.
Add peels to bowl of flowers.
Add peels to bowl of flowers.
Ad 1.5L boiling water. Don't be alarmed if the flowers turn brown, it won't affect the flavour.
Ad 1.5L boiling water. Don’t be alarmed if the flowers turn brown, it won’t affect the flavour. Cover with a tea towel and leave it to infuse overnight.
Next day it went quite brown on top where the flowers weren't fully submerged.
Next day it went quite brown, on top where the flowers weren’t fully submerged.
Scald your cheesecloth/muslin by placing in saucepan of water and bringing to the boil to sterilise it even if new.
Scald your cheesecloth/muslin by placing in saucepan of water and bringing to the boil to sterilise it even if new. I placed it in my strainer as it boiled to sterilise that too.
Place strainer over saucepan and drape muslin over the edges. I propped mine higher over my saucepan because it was shallow with a cake tin.
Place strainer over saucepan and drape muslin over the edges. My saucepan was quite shallow so I propped the strainer up with a cake tin.

Strain the infused elderflower liquid through muslin.
Strain the infused elderflower liquid through muslin.
Press down with a ladle to squeeze out extra liquid. Leave for 15 minutes to drip through.
Press down with a ladle to squeeze out extra liquid. Leave for 15 minutes to drip through.

Cover with a plate while liquid drips through the muslin to protect from flies.
Cover with a plate while liquid drips through the muslin to protect from flies.
Add sugar. It is a preservative which prevents spoilage of foods, but more importantly serves to inhibit growth of food-borne pathogen.
Add sugar which is also a preservative which prevents spoilage of foods, but more importantly serve to inhibit or prevent growth of food-borne pathogen.
Add citric acid. 1 teaspoon powdered Citric Acid is equivalent to ¼ cup lemon juice.
Add citric acid. 1 teaspoon powdered Citric Acid is equivalent to ¼ cup lemon juice.

Add lemon and orange juice.
Add lemon and orange juice.
Simmer saucepan on medium heat stirring to dissolve sugar.
Simmer saucepan on medium heat stirring to dissolve sugar.
Poor hot syrup into still hot sterilised bottles and screw on sterilised lids. Bottle must be warm or they will break with sudden change in temperature. As they cool the lids will seal as pressure changes.
Poor hot syrup into still hot sterilised bottles and screw on sterilised lids. Bottle must be warm or they will break with sudden change in temperature. As they cool the lids will seal as the pressure changes.

Elderflower punch - cordial, sparkling mineral water, passionfruit pulp, apple slices and ice.
Elderflower punch – cordial, sparkling mineral water, passionfruit pulp, apple slices and ice.

I hope you try this at home and enjoy on a balmy evening. Do you have any other recipes that are perfect for a hot day? Let me know in the comments below.

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