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
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
- 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