My Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial is a family tradition based on a 100 year old recipe. Made with foraged elderflowers, the cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats!
I originally called this post a prelude to summer, as summer does not officially start until the beginning of June, But with a jug of this refreshing cordial served at the tea time table, I can just glimpse hot days, buzzing bees, the smell of newly cut hay, strawberries and cream, fairs and fetes, jam and scones, the sound of leather on willow and many other summery images and smells on the distant summery horizon.
And as the Romans celebrated the Festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer and was held annually from April 28th to May 3rd, May Day is definitely the beginning of summer for me,
The first of May is a special day in my family, it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday and it is the prelude to a month of many family birthdays and anniversary celebrations, of which one is mine. It’s also a wonderful day of merriment and flowers……a day to dance and have fun.
The weather in the UK is often not very summery in May, and I am sure that if you were planning on dancing around a May Pole you might have a very soggy time of it, but nevertheless, I am still going to celebrate May Day in some way.
And I think one of the nicest ways is to share a BEAUTIFUL May recipe with you, my Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial. This family recipe is based on a recipe that is 100 years old, made with foraged elderflowers that were collected from quiet country lanes, as well as from the bottom of my garden.
Who can resist an English country lane, (when it’s not wet of course) where blackbirds trill and swallows swoop in between hedges, where frothy white flowers hang heavy, ready to be picked and preserved into this most wonderful of summer beverages.
The English summer is thought to start when the elderflower blossoms end and the elderberries ripen; with a heady floral aroma floating down country lanes, May indeed heralds a bountiful harvest for the forager and home-brewer as soon as these flowers are in bloom.
How to Pick Elderflowers
The flowers taste best picked early on a dry, hot day, and speed is crucial: they should be used straight after picking. The cream-coloured heads (or umbels) are tastier than the white, and don’t worry if they smell unappetising at first, the heady scent does become delicious later on I promise you.
Choose umbels free of discolouration and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin.
Elderflower cordial seems to cost more and more as the bottles get trendier and more “Up-Market” and “Artisanal” and it’s seen as a luxury nowadays, which seems ludicrous to me as I know that you can make it for next to nothing, and all it takes is a little time and preparation, and the result is a summer lane in a bottle.
Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C; and in A Modern Herbal of 1931, Mrs Grieves recommends an elderflower infusion, taken hot before bed, as a remedy for colds and throat trouble. Mrs Grieves also swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent.
She says to place the foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds to prevent attacks by aphids and caterpillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midges too, now that sounds very handy.
How to Use Elderflower Cordial
Elderflower cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats such as lemonade, sorbet, mousses, jelly, desserts, beverages, glazes etc.
It is very easy to make, although you need to plan ahead as the flowers need to be steeped in the sugar mixture for four days.
More Elderflower Recipes:
Make the most of your cordial and fresh elderflowers with these recipes.
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English Elderflower Cordial Recipe
Old-Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial
Elderflower cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats......lemonade, sorbet, mousses, jelly, desserts, beverages, salad dressings, glazes etc. It is very easy to make, although you need to plan ahead as the flowers need to be steeped in the sugar mixture for four days.
- 20 large elderberry flower heads, shaken to get rid of dust and insects and fertiliser free ( (umbels))
- 900g white sugar
- 2 lemons, wiped clean and thinly sliced
- 40g citric acid
- 500ml boiling water
Step 1: Place the freshly picked elderflower umbels (heads) in a large heatproof bowl or pan (that can be covered or has a lid). Add the sliced lemons. Then add the sugar.
Step 2: Pour the boiling water over and add the citric acid - stir all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 3: Make sure the lemon slices and most of the elderflower heads are under the sugar water. Cover and leave in a cool place for 4 days.
Step 4: Every day, remove the lid and stir the mixture - pressing the lemon slices gently to extract the juice.You should be able to smell the beautiful floral fragrance of the elderflowers after only one day -- if after 4 days you feel there is not enough "floral" flavour to the cordial, leave for a further day. Remember, that this will be diluted to drink or added to other ingredients, so it should be as strong as possible in smell and flavour.
Step 5: When you are ready to bottle the cordial, strain through a non-metallic FINE sieve (lined with muslin if necessary - if the sieve is not fine enough) into a large pouring jug or bowl.
Step 6: Then pour the cordial into clean and sterile bottles. Seal the bottles and store the cordial in a cool, dark, dry place. This cordial is ready to use/drink now, and it will keep for a very long time if stored in the right conditions. (I have some from 4 years ago and it is still as fragrant and floral as the day I made it)
Choose umbels free of discolouring and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin.
The flowers taste best picked early on a dry, hot day, and speed is crucial: they should be used straight after picking.
The cream-coloured heads (or umbels) are tastier than the white, and don’t worry if they smell unappetising at first once they’re infused, the heady scent is delicious.
NB: Citric acid can be found in chemists or pharmacists, or in special brewing and wine-making shops/departments. If you cannot source citric acid, use an extra lemon instead.
Nutrition InformationYield 20 servings Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 177Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 2mgCarbohydrates 46gFiber 0gSugar 45gProtein 0g
Nutrition information is an approximate calculation based on the ingredients listed and it can vary according to portion sizes and when different ingredients are used
Andrea Smith says
Citric Acid is no longer available at the chemist/pharmacist due to a change in the law a couple of years ago. I now buy mine in a health food shop. Definately make this though, it’s divine and lovely if you add a small shot to a Gin & Tonic!
I was able to buy mine in the local health food shop, but had to tell the what I was using it for! I LOVE a shot with a G and T too!
god this is terrible!… on one hand it’s lovely to see such warm sunshiny pictures… and I adore Elderflower cordial by the way… but on the other hand it is SO horrid here at the moment (and due to stay bad) that I can’t stand the thought of all this gloomy weather and those pictures just remind me what we should be having now!… boo hoo!
I know Dom! I was torn between posting a casserole recipe or this lovely summery recipe…..but I refuse to be worn down by rain and cold, so decided to inject a little sunshine into my blog today! It is DIRE here today though….very depressing! THANKS darlink! Karen
Just beautiful. Putting me in the mood for collecting some of these gorgeous flower heads. I cannot wait to be drinking some of this in the garden on a summer’s day! We also have an elderberry tree in the garden and need to know what to do with them too if you have any ideas?!!
Ah, I DO have some elderberry recipes too…..quite a few, I will give you a shout when I post them Laura! THANKS so much for your lovely comments! 🙂
Maybe I have a rogue chemist but after striking out all over the place my local independent pharmacy ordered some up for me once I told them what I was using it for. In a reassuringly old-fashioned box – so cute! We adore homemade cordials and elderflower is a favourite. And how wonderful to have a 100 year-old recipe to go by. I like to use a splash to perk up not-quite-flavourful-enough fruit and it is a key ingredient in an oatmeal and lemon cake that we like.
I must have a rogue chemist too, as I HAVE bought citric acid from a small chemist’s shop nearby, having been questioned about why I wanted to buy it! I am also a lover of fruit and flower cordials, and elderflower is one of my favourites!
Becs @ Lay the table says
Wow, this looks delicious and the photos are really stunning too!
THANKS so much Becs! That’s made my day, well, evening now!
This is on my list too – I keep seeing so many bakes with it in. Sadly though I am not sure where to locate my nearest elderflower bush I can happily chop heads from! They don’t have that as a function on google maps and gps sadly! SO I think I will have to have a drive around when it is not raining!
I think that should be a new app – foraging for elderflowers app for google maps and gps!
Absolutely gorgeous! Stunning photo’s – just right for dreaming of summer in spite of the rain through my window!
THANKS so much, that’s what I was aiming for, a little hope for the summer!
Maya Russell says
Shared on Twitter as @maisietoo – https://twitter.com/maisietoo/status/319331987146035200
Ursula Hunt says
Looks very popular must give it a try.
Maya Russell says
I just love the picture of the May Day dance. I love old photos. Like the cordial too!
anthony harrington says
yet another delicious receipe
Paul Wilson says
Elderflower is much underrated in my opinion.
ursula hunt says
Beautiful pictures with the flowers brings back summer
Val Hartley says
Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial – must really try this, it looks gorgeous.
Paul Wilson says
May seems a long time ago now.
kevin smith says
Looks very refreshing!
Natalie Gillham says
I love elderflower