Elderflower cordial is a sweet, floral tasting syrup with a lemon tang.
To make it, the elderflowers are best gathered when they are still young and cream coloured, rather than older and purer white. Shake the flowers well to get any insects out. You make a sugar syrup, and pour it hot over the flowers and some sliced lemons. Some add citric acid powder, to act as a preservative, and give it more tang. Then let it stand, covered, to ferment for a day, stirring frequently, with the flowers in it, then strain and bottle.
You dilute with water when serving, either plain water or fizzy water. You can serve on ice, garnished with lemon slices or mint. You can add some gin or vodka along with the fizzy water to make a spritzer. You can also use it to flavour a glass of white wine or inexpensive bubbly.
In cooking, you can use it in desserts, as an ingredient or a drizzled garnish when serving, or in marinades for meats such as fowl or pork. It can also be used in salad dressings.
You can also make a flavoured sugar syrup, by boiling water and sugar together, then adding the flowers secured in a cloth bag, simmer for a few minutes, then cool.
In many British homes, the making of fresh cordial from the elderflowers marked the start of summer.
Elderflower Cordial Recipe
4 cups (2 pounds / 900g) granulated white sugar
7 cups (3 UK pints / 1.7 litres) boiling water
30 large elderflowers
4 tablespoons (2 oz / 55 g) citric acid
Put in a large bowl or clean, food-safe bucket, the flowers (shaken well), along with the lemons (cut into quarters.) Make a sugar syrup from the sugar and water. When the sugar is fully dissolved in the water, and the syrup is boiling, pour it over the flowers and lemon pieces, and stir in the citric acid. Stir. Cover with a cloth, let stand for 24 hours, stirring frequently. Then strain through muslin cloth into a sterilized bottle, and put a top on the bottle. This reputedly keeps indefinitely.
Ensure that the flowers you are picking are not from the type of elderbush known as Red Elderberry (Sambucus pubens.) The flowers and berries of this type are toxic. In fact, many sources advise avoiding all North American types of elderflower and only using European varieties.
Grigson, Sophie. Elderflower Cordial. Good Food Channel website. Retrieved June 2011 from http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/516164
Parker Bowles, Tom. Why making elderflower cordial is thirsty work. London: Daily Mail. 19 June 2010.