Elderflower Cordial is a fragrant and flavourful concentrated juice made all over Europe in the Early summer.
We at Campfire Kitchen like to dabble with foraging but we don’t claim to be experts. In fact I’d describe myself as a complete novice. That’s why when I see something that’s hard to get wrong or mix with something else, I got so excited! That’s where Elderflower Cordial comes in.
The Elder tree is common in Ireland and the UK. The masses of creamy, white flowers appear from May to June. These flowers are what we use to make this tasty elderflower cordial. If you would like more guidance about identifying the Elder tree, we recommend the Woodland Trust.
To make my Elderflower cordial, I used a recipe from River Cottage. It worked very well this time but we did some things slightly differently. The recipe calls for citric acid, which we didn’t have so we left it out. It says it was optional anyway, so I’m not sure what difference it would have made. I also halved the recipe. We did this for two reasons. The Elder tree I was “foraging” from, actually overhangs my back garden from my neighbour. I didn’t want to steal all of their flowers. The second reason was containers. I only had enough containers to safely store about 1.2 litres of cordial.
Here are a few things we learned while making this Elderflower Cordial.
The flavour of elderflower comes from the pollen. So be gentle with the collected flowerheads, if you throw them in a bag, all the tasty pollen will fall away. This is also the reason Elderflower heads are best collected early, on a sunny morning. Rain will wash pollen away and insects will collect it throughout the day. You have to get there first. Choose heads which are young and mostly open. The flowers get bitter as they age. And finally, don’t wash the flowers. Pick the bugs out. When I was infusing mine, there were bugs I could see but these were killed in the boiling and filtered out in the muslin. Don’t worry too much about them if you can help it.
You will need jars or bottles that you can close tightly. I had some Kilners that do the trick. Old jam jars will also work fine, it’ll just be harder to pour the elderflower cordial out. Do sterilise the bottles properly. Then your cordial will keep for the summer if kept sealed. Have a read of this to learn about sterilisation.
So what do you do with your elderflower cordial? Well, if you’re over 18, the obvious thing to do is add a measure to your G&T and garnish with lime. Those flavours work so well and the elderflower adds a bit of summer to your glass. If you’re under 18 there are still plenty of uses! It is delicious as a soft drink, mixed with sparkling or still water, with plenty of ice. The River Cottage page also suggests mixing in some crushed berries, a little water and freezing into ice lollies. I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds so refreshing!