Today, my son and I made Last Chance Elderflower Cordial. It’s best made weeks ago, back in early June when the fragrant, frothy flower-heads first appear in the lanes. But things have been busy, and I forgot – until my four-year-old asked rather plaintively if we were going to make some cordial this year. (My kids love cordial – the fact it contains a metric ton of sugar may have something to do with this. Healthy it is not).
The trouble is, we’d left it so late that the tiny white elderflowers have mostly gone over, with little green berries starting to form in their place. So we jumped in the car and went on an emergency elderflower hunt, looking for shady places where the last flowers might be clinging on. It was tough going. We climbed over ditches and through nettle patches. But we managed to find just enough flowers to make up a batch this afternoon. Little guy grated the lemon zest for me, while I tried to pick (most of) the insects out of the flowers.
Then we added heaps of caster sugar, some boiling water, and a little citric acid to help it last longer. The mix is now steeping for 24 hours, before we strain it and bottle it. I’ve included the full recipe below.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that the photos are in extreme close-up because the kitchen table was covered with paperwork, kids’ drawings, and the remnants of lunch. But at least the cordial got made!
Here’s the recipe I used:
Last Chance Elderflower Cordial
- 20 large elderflower ‘heads’ – or if made in late June, whatever size and amount you can find that aren’t actually going brownish. (As ever, with foraging – if you’re not sure, don’t pick – please don’t poison yourselves, people!)
- 3 to 6 lemons – sliced
- 1.8kg caster sugar (nope, that’s not a typo…1.8kg!)
- 50g citric acid (buy from a chemists, or online)
- 1.5 litres boiling water
- Ideally, pick the flowers away from busy roads or fields that have been recently sprayed; shake out any insects, and run under cold water to wash
- Put the flowers in a large bowl, with the lemon slices (and zest, if you want), plus sugar and citric acid
- Pour over the boiling water, stir til the sugar is dissolved; cover with a cloth and leave to steep for 24 hours or so
- Strain through a clean muslin or cloth (a tea-towel works); ie put the cloth in a sieve, place this over a large bowl, then pour the flowery mixture in – so that the cordial can drip through into the bowl, leaving all the gunk behind.
- Pour the strained, clear liquid – a funnel helps! – into sterilised bottles or jars (you can sterilise them by putting them through a hot dishwasher or soaking in boiling water)
- Keep in the fridge, don’t keep too long – it also freezes fine in plastic bottles.
To drink, pour a little out and dilute well with still or sparkling water, to taste.