This Elderflower cordial recipe was first published in 2010 and I’ve tried to find good recipes that cut the sugar content ever since as the original was quite heavy on it. Thanks to the River Cottage Preserves book I’ve finally found one that halves the sugar and have used it as detailed below.
In a good year Elderflowers start to appear in hedgerows across the country during May, however in 2010 it was early June and in 2015 ours were only just coming into bud towards the very end of June.
Wait until the blooms are full, creamy coloured and full of scent (they’re especially heady when picked in the evening). As with any type of foraging, avoid collecting the flowers if they’re growing close to a busy road as they’re more likely to pick up pollution and don’t pick all the flowers. Take a few from different branches, leaving the rest to develop into berries that can be made into a winter tonic in the form of Elderberry syrup.
If you spot the blossom but don’t have time to make the cordial (or jam, or whatever you’d like them for), you can freeze the heads.
I stored my cordial in sterilised screw topped wine bottles and it’s an ingredient that’s handy to have in the cupboard as summer recipes often call for it.
This recipe makes around 2 litres and it will be 24 hours before it’s ready.
25 heads of Elderflower
1 kg granulated sugar
1.5 litres boiling water
3 lemons & 1 orange, unwaxed. Finely grate the zest, save the juice (around 150 ml) then thinly slice
1 heaped teaspoon of citric acid (available from Chemists, optional but I’ve always added it)
Shake the Elderflowers in case there are any insects lurking and put the blossoms in a large bowl. Add the lemon and orange zest and the sliced lemons. Pour over the boiling water, cover and leave for 24 hours to infuse.
The next day, strain the infuse liquid into a saucepan through a coffee filter or clean muslin cloth then add the citric acid, lemon and orange juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved, then pour the syrup into sterilised bottles and seal.
We leave a bottle in the fridge and just add tap water but for a change it’s lovely when it’s diluted with sparkling water, or even better for the adults, with topic water and added to our favourite gin!
Have you used elder flowers in recipes before? Do you love or loathe them?
I just made this today, well, spotted a recipe elsewhere and then someone asked me was it your recipe – all the ingredients are the same anyway. It is a scary amount of sugar isn't it – I made double the amount of my recipe and it was 3 bags of sugar to 4 litres of water!
I'll let you know tomorrow how it turns out 🙂
Makes you realise how much sugar goes into regular shop bought squash Lorna.. good luck 🙂
Hi Dee, I have been using fruit sugar in my elder flower cordial and using a lot less. Here is a link to my recipe. http://ciaranthegardener.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/respect-your-elders-elderflower-cordial-recipe/
Thanks Ciaran… I just checked your recipe and it uses considerably less sugar, much healthier alternative. I’ll give it a go if I can source the sugar here. The only plus of mine is that it made me very aware of how much sugar is added to squashes in general so when our kids drink it all, it’s not automatically replaced (meaning they now drink a lot more water!)
Wonder could you substitute the sugar with Stevia?
Perhaps though personally I’d steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Though I don’t know much about Stevia, I did quite a bit of digging around on aspartame. Here’s the link to the article.
I mean straight from the Stevia plant? I was very wary of it myself, until I actually saw it in plant form in the garden centre, thought at first by the sound of the name it must be something artificial and noxious like aspartame. I wonder is there an “artificial” stevia sweetner as well? Highly likely.
Considering buying a stevia plant to see what it’s like.
There is such a product! I didn’t have time to research whether it flags similar warnings to aspartame but I had only heard of it as a sweetener and not a plant. Will check out the Stevia plant now and take a look, thanks 🙂
Gosh! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised really. Natural is the only way to go. Not that I’m 100% there at all, but I do my best. 🙂
(for some reason I couldn’t reply to your last comment, so I thought I’d just put it here instead.)
It’s very difficult to be 100% when we’re overwhelmed with the alternative, all we can do is our best 🙂
I just found this link about using Stevia, it might help.
Loved this recipe so much last year that I have quadrupled it this year. Last year after seeing the amount of sugar in the recipe I made a batch with considerably less sugar. It tasted much the same, needed less diluting but didn’t store very well. Noticed after a few months that some tiny bits of mould was beginning to appear at the top of the bottle. The sugar overdose is definitely required for a long lasting delicious cordial!
Family and friends have heard I’ve made a new batch so they are queuing to get their share.
Mary I’m coming around yours! Interesting about the sugar. You could set up a tea shop with that quantity. They were charging €3.50 a glass of elderflower with fizzy water in the restaurants this weekend!
I’ve made a similar cordial for years from an old recipe my grandmother gave me; a couple of differences from yours here – uses 30 elderflower heads but only 900g sugar and includes 2 oranges, sliced also…works perfectly and is plenty sweet enough!
ps. love your blog!
Erica thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’ve been wondering if I could reduce the sugar comment as we do find that one quite sweet but wasn’t sure how it would affect the outcome. It’s good to know and I like the idea of adding oranges 🙂
[…] back to the scrummy strawberry cordial mentioned in the introduction with a link to another seasonal cordial recipe made from hedgerow elderflowers. Hope you enjoy making your […]
[…] in the year we made the deliciously summery elderflower cordial and a couple of years ago made elderberry […]
My favourite drink and great to have a version that’s a bit lower in sugar.
I’ve just bought the citric acid, now waiting for the sunshine! Enjoy 🙂
Have made this and it’s delicous, do you think it would work with any soft fruit? Have just tried a batch with Victoria plums, will see how it works out.
How did it work out Jennie? Apologies only just seeing your comment now.
It was great thank you Dee, have just finished a batch with raspberry too and that is delicous, and a beautiful colour.
Sounds like something you’ll enjoy and think of summer about during the coming winter evenings.