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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Tis the season for elderflower cordial

For the last week or so in Edinburgh, creamy white elderflowers are bursting into bloom in gardens, woodlands and wastelands alike. If you're feeling resourceful, not too bothered by bugs and fancy some easy foraging, go pick some and boil up this delicious sweet, summery cordial.

We followed Pam Corbin's recipe (originally from River Cottage) in her book Preserves.

Makes about 2 litres.

You will need:

About 25 elderflower heads (best when just blooming)
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice
1kg sugar (more or less to taste)
1 heaped tsp citric acid (readily and cheaply available from pharmacies)

What to do:

Vigorously shake the elderflowers, outside, to get rid of most of the bugs (resist rinsing).
Place the heads in a bowl with the zest.

Boil 1.5 litres of water and pour over the flowers and zest.
Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
Strain the liquid through muslin (or a pair of tights if you don't have any) into a saucepan.
Add the sugar, fruit juices and citric acid (this is optional, it adds a slight bitterness and helps the cordial to last longer).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for a couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles and seal.

Will keep for a couple of weeks as is.

Chris's top tips
  • Gather the flowers when dry.
  • Don't get too carried away (or there'll be no berries later in the year).
  • This is really easy and inexpensive to make.
  • Suitable for freezing.
  • Don't be too fastidious about the bugs, any that don't escape with shaking, will be boiled up and strained out! You really won't notice...
  • Don’t be put off by colour when soaking the elderflowers – once drained it looks better and tastes great!
  • Try serving with fruit salad, dilluted with water (still or sparkling) or even cava or champagne.
  • Apparently, you can also make delicious ice cubes, granita or ice lollies (if the sunshine ever returns). Here's hoping...

Please share your tips or serving suggestions too.


  1. I can't believe he said that about the bugs...although I suppose the boiling would sterilise them...but still...;)

  2. Hi there - I was just wondered where in Edinburgh you get your Elderflowers? I really want to make some cordial this summer!



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