Article provided by The Woodland Trust
Elder (Sambucus nigra) is one the UKs most familiar trees and few plants have featured more in British folklore and traditional medicine.
The creamy-coloured sprays of highly scented flowers have been made into teas and infusions, used to flavour cooked fruit, jams, jellies, ices and form the basis of elderflower fritters. But the most popular recipe is the well-known and much loved elderflower cordial.
The abundance of elderflower cordial recipes out there reflects its long heritage of use and popularity. The Woodland Trust has put together this fragrant and delicate cordial recipe that is super easy to make.
Elderflowers are ready around late May to mid-June.
Step-by-step: how to make elderflower cordial
- 1 litre (2 pints) elderflowers
- Lemon zest
- Granulated sugar
- Gather enough elderflower sprays to fill a 1 litre (2 pint) measure when lightly packed.
- Shake the flowers to make sure there are no insects hiding inside, but don’t wash them as this can spoil the flavour.
- Cover the elderflowers with water. Add lemon zest (as little or as much as you like). Simmer for 30 minutes. Top up the pan if necessary, to keep the liquid covering the flowers.
- Strain the flower-infused liquid through muslin or tea towel, gently squeezing it to extract all the juice. Measure the amount of juice.
- Add 350g (12 oz) granulated sugar, and the juice of half a lemon, to each 500ml (1 pint) of liquid. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer and skim off any scum. Let the cordial cool.
- Pour the liquid through a funnel into clean, sterilised bottles, up to about 1cm below the top. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.
Once bottled, the cordial will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
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Serving Your Elderflower Cordial.
This fantastic, aromatic cordial has a stunning, summery flavour.
Serve with sparkling water for a refreshing drink or add to sparkling wine or champagne for a delicious cocktail.
Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies. You can also drizzle it over lemon sorbet.
Make elderflower cream by adding a few tablespoons of elderflower cordial and a sprinkling of icing sugar when whipping cream. This livens up any recipe using cream – in particular trifles, Eton Mess and pavlovas.
See also: Stay Hydrated This Summer
Tips for foraging elderflower
Although elder has spectacular flowering, the elderflower season tends to be short. Keep an eye out for them from late May to mid-July, depending on where you live in the UK.
Freshly picked flowers make the best cordial and the flowers quickly lose their heady scent within a few hours, so make sure you have time to make the cordial soon after picking.
Dry, newly opened flower heads have the best fragrance. Pick them from late morning on a dry day to make sure they are not soggy with dew, and do not collect from roadsides in case they’re tainted with exhaust fumes.
Following this guidance and recipe should help you create a new summer staple for your recipe book that will remain family a favourite for years to come.
The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in England (No. 294344) and in Scotland (No. SC038885). A non-profit making company limited by guarantee.