P1220575Last year was such a wash out I didn’t even try to pick any elderflowers for cordial or champagne — there was no point, the flowers were always wet and the sun was rarely out. But this year the crop has been fantastic despite the odd shower.


I followed the recipe in Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke, which produced enough cordial to fill three small-ish bottles and several ice-cube trays for the freezer. The frozen cubes will be used as floral ‘stock cubes’ to add to cooked fruit such as gooseberries and apples.

Ingredients: 25 heads of very fresh elderflowers;1.5kg granulated sugar; 3 large unwaxed lemons; 75g citric acid; 1.5 litres of water.

MethodPut sugar and water into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time to ensure that the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile peel off the zest of the lemon in broad strips (I used a potato peeler), and put into a large bowl with the elderflower heads. Next slice the  lemons into thin discs and add them to the bowl. By now the sugar syrup should have come to the boil — pour it over the lemons, flowers and zest and then stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth or cling film and leave the mixture in a cool dark place for 24 hours. (Some recipes suggest 48 hours, which is what I did).

Once the 24 or 48 hours are up, test the cordial — you may want to add a little more lemon. Next, strain the liquid through a muslin-lined sieve into a wide-necked jug. And finally pour the cordial into clean, sterilised bottles. According to Diana Henry, the cordial lasts up to five weeks in the fridge

In the past I’ve bought my citric acid from Brewer’s Droop, the home brew shop on the Gloucester Rd, this year I tried the chemist at the bottom of the road where I was interrogated for a good five minutes or so about how I intended to use the citric acid. Satisfied that I would be using it to make cordial and not cutting it with cocaine, he still refused to sell me more than a tiny 50g box. I explained that I needed 75g, and in the end, after much pleading, he agreed I could have a second packet in a separate transaction.

6 thoughts on “elderflower

  1. Floral stock cubes – Genius!

    The citric acid is unnecessary unless you intend to keep it in bottles for many months. I freeze any cordial we can’t drink within a couple of weeks.

  2. Very disturbing that your local chemist couldn’t tell you apart from a druggie!! I’d be quite offended (and probably make sure the chemist knew that). All that aside, I’ve been meaning to pick elderflowers for a couple of weeks now. I love the idea of cordial but also want to make a recipe for Elderflower (Turkish) Delight from River Cottage.

  3. I have never tried to make Elderflower cordial but your note has inspired me to give it a go. Rather surprised to learn of the other use for citric acid. What a sheltered life I have lived.

  4. It’s ridiculously impossible to get all sorts of versatile chemical products that should be freely available, it’s a pet peeve of mine that brewers and dyers etc. are not always able to buy what they need.

    I bet that cordial will be delicious🙂

  5. Elderflower wine is absolutley brilliant – you should give this a go. You can go quite dry (ie don’t add too much sugar) as the wine is really crisp without being overly acidic. It retains the lovely floral aroma of the flowers and has a heady taste very like the Moscatel grape.

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