elderflower cordial: an idiot’s guide

Considering its popularity, I’m amazed that so few people make their own elderflower cordial. It really is incredibly easy. My guess, though, is that there are a few things at the outset which stump people, and then the whole thing becomes too much hassle. This post is an attempt to un-stump the process of making elderflower cordial – because the homemade version really is so much better than anything you can buy.

First off, you’re going to need to recognise elderflower. It’s a white flower which can be found in hedgerows, parks, by the side of the road etc during June. It’s not this:

2013-06-15 10.58.01This is cow parsley (at least, that’s the name I know it by) and it’s around in June, like elderflower.

This isn’t elderflower either:

2013-05-12 11.23.14

Nor this:

2013-06-08 10.22.58Don’t ask me what they are, but they’re not elderflower. I know them as white flowers which bloom around the same time as elderflower, presumably just to confuse us mere mortals into not bothering to make our own elderflower cordial.

THIS is elderflower:

IMG_2659[1]

IMG_2658[1]

And if you’re not sure, go up and give it a sniff – elderflower even smells of elderflower.

You’ll need around 20 of these white flower heads. Legend goes that you must pick them on a sunny day in order to get the best flavour. No idea whether this is true; all I can say is that I’ve always managed to pick them during a sunny few minutes squeezed into a rainy day, and the resulting flavour has always been excellent. Anyway, once you pick them, you need to be ready to use them immediately, so now you know how to recognise them, get the other bits and bobs together first.

You’ll need some citric acid. You can get this from Lakeland, Amazon, Wilko, or some chemists – but be prepared to be looked at rather suspiciously and asked what you’re intending to use it for, as it’s (supposedly) used in the taking of heroin. For this reason (I imagine) Boots have stopped selling it. I’ve found it in Lloyds Pharmacy before.

It’s also helpful to have a couple of clean tea towels, one of which you don’t mind getting ruined, and a stash of plastic bottles in which to store the drink. (You can use glass, but then you won’t be able to freeze them. And elderflower freezes really well. I always make a double stash and we’re still drinking it at Christmas – although we have been known to get through a bottle in an evening before.)

2013-06-22 22.11.48If you haven’t got any medium-sized plastic bottles (squash bottles are ideal – fizzy drink bottles are too big) then do what I usually do, and buy a multipack of bottled water. You can decant the water into something else, and then you have several bottles of perfect size for storing/freezing elderflower and you don’t even need to wash them.

The rest is plain sailing: one lemon, 1.5kg of sugar and 1.2l boiling water. This is what you do.

Shake the elderflower leaves to get rid of any nasties. Put them in a huge saucepan/bucket/bowl, along with one sliced lemon, 1.5kg sugar and 2 tsp citric acid. Cover with 1.2l boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover with a clean tea towel, put out of the way somewhere, and stir twice a day for four days.

After four days, strain the liquid. I find that when I use a muslin, too much nasty stuff gets through, so now I use an old, clean tea towel which I don’t mind going in the bin afterwards. I put it over a sieve, which is balanced over a large bowl or jug. Pour in some elderflower. It takes a while to strain this away, so go off and do something else, and just return when you can to pour in a bit more. BUT – it is worth it, as the resulting liquid will be clear and delicious.

Then – bottle! It will keep for up to one month in the fridge, but, like I said, freezes well too. It also makes excellent presents, if you can bear to give the stuff away. I wouldn’t know.

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4 Replies to “elderflower cordial: an idiot’s guide”

  1. I am on my second batch from my second recipe – the first one had orange in, which was okay, but I am really a lemon girl. Do you remember when we went into the chemist in Hunmanby for citric acid and they looked us up and down before deciding we weren’t crystal meth manufactures? That was fun!

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