Why are more people making elderflower cordial?
Elderflower cordial is so easy to make, it’s no wonder that it has increased in popularity over the past few years. People increasingly want to make the most of harvesting their natural surroundings, and there is an abundance of elderflower in our hedgerows. You may not have noticed it before, as it can be mistaken for a weed lookalike, but once you know what you are looking for it couldn’t be easier.
How to forage for elderflower
The elderflower tree is often found in amongst the hedgerows and has a height of around 5 to 10 meters. Its leaves are feather shaped with 5 to 7 leaflets, each of which is serrated. The easiest way to tell if it is elderflower is by smelling the creamy white flower clusters. Most people find that they smell fresh, sweet and summery.
The time when elderflowers are ready (when the flowers are fully open) is usually between May and June. It’s best you pick them on a sunny day and away from traffic fumes, this will give a better taste to the cordial. You should also avoid picking any elderflower below hip height to make sure that dogs have not cocked their legs up on your flowers! Cut them off with as little stem as possible and give them a little shake before putting them in your bag. This will get rid of a few of the tiny bugs that like to rest on the flowers. It’s also best to gather your flowers from different trees as some are better than others. Sometimes you can smell the difference, but if not, gathering from different trees will make sure you get a good all round taste.
Once you have harvested the flowers you can make up your cordial (see recipe below). You can dilute with some water or add it to Prosecco, cider, gin, sparkling water and even desserts, the list is endless!
- 6-8 elderflower heads. You can add slightly more if you want it stronger.
- 450 g sugar
- 1 Lemon zested and sliced
- 2 tsp citric acid
- 1 pint water
Bring the sugar and water to boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Turn off the heat and put the elderflower heads, with as little stalk as possible, into the solution. You want the water just boiling to get rid of any impurities.
Zest the lemon and then slice. Put both zest and slices into the sugar solution.
Add the citric acid.
Cover and leave for 24 hours.
Strain into sterilised bottles.
Ready to serve now, dilute to taste.
TIP 1 Citric acid helps to preserve. You can leave this out if you wish as the lemon also acts as a preservative – it depends on how fast you are planning on drinking it!
TIP 2 To drink, instead of adding water, add chilled sparkling mineral water & white wine to taste.
TIP 3 Make sure the elderflowers are not in a field that has recently been sprayed, that they are above dog leg height and away from traffic fumes! Elder is very genetically diverse, so pick only flowers from a sweet smelling bush.
TIP 4 If you wish the cordial to last longer without fermentation, boil the elderflowers for 15 minutes. This will help to kill the natural yeast and will stop it fermenting.
TIP 5 You can buy sterilising solution, citric acid, sugar and bottles from your local homebrew supplier. Dried elderflowers can also be bought if you want to make this out of season.