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How to make your own elderflower cordial from scratch

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Kayleigh Dray
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A glass mug of elderflower cordial, with a slice of lemon hooked on the rim

It’s elderflower season, so it’s time to get foraging…

You may have noticed, on one of your many, many socially distanced walks, that the UK’s hedgerow is currently an explosion of fragrant white flowers. Among them, of course, is the elder tree – as in, yes, the source of elderflowers and elderberries.

As previously noted by Stylist, this tree is a key point of interest for foraging fans. Why? Well, because the flowers are said to cleanse the body and the berries, which arrive by autumn, can help to boost immunity. Both are excellent in cordials, wines, and desserts

While you’ll have to wait until autumn for those elderberries, the flowers are in bloom throughout May and June. So why not turn your attention away from baking (surely you’re sick of banana bread by now, eh?) and onto foraging elderflowers for your very own homemade cordial?

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Picking your elderflowers

Don’t just pick the first bunch of elderflowers you see: make sure you’re away from a roadside or polluted area (never delicious), and look for the blossoms which sit above waist height. Trust me on this: I own a dog, so I know what they do to plants that sit lower down. You really don’t want those poor tainted flowers in your drink.

Make sure the flowers you’re picking have fully opened and have not started to wilt or turn brown. And give them a sniff, too: you want a sweet floral scent. Anything a little whiffy could mean the flowers are past their best.

A hand reaches for a sprig of elderflowers
Foraging for elderflowers: make sure the flowers you’re picking have fully opened and have not started to wilt or turn brown

Once you’ve collected your flowers (you’ll need about 20 heads), dunk them in a bowl of cold water and give them a gentle swoosh around the bowl to shake off any dirt or critters.

Trim the stalks, then set your elderflowers aside for later.

Buying your citric acid

Citric acid isn’t just a natural kitchen cleaner: it’s a key ingredient in elderflower cordial, too. You can pick a bag up from your local pharmacy or a big supermarket. You can also pick up a kilogram of the stuff for less than a fiver on Amazon, if you were wondering…

Making your elderflower cordial

This recipe, which has been passed along by a family member, calls for two unwaxed lemons (zested and sliced), 85g citric acid, your 20 elderflower heads, and a whopping 2.5kg white sugar. 

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Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, it’s incredibly simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Pour 1.5l water, along with your sugar, into a big saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Then, turn off the heat.
  2. Add your elderflowers, sliced lemons, zest and citric acid to the pan. Stir vigorously.
  3. Cover your pan and set aside for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth or fine sieve, and chuck out any bits that get caught up in the fabric.
  5. Pour your liquid into clean and sterilised glass bottles (you can do this by running them through the dishwasher).

All done? Perfect. All that’s left to do is serve your cordial up with lots of sparkling water and a wedge or two of lemon, if you’d like to enjoy yours straightaway. 

Otherwise, it should keep in the fridge for around six weeks.

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Happy foraging, folks!

Images: Unsplash/author’s own

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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