Elderflower cordial: how to make it and how to drink it

Welcome the warm weather by making elderflower cordial or add to gin

As they ripen, these cream-coloured flowers give off a honeyed floral odour that perfumes the air

As they ripen, these cream-coloured flowers give off a honeyed floral odour that perfumes the air

 

I’ve just seen the first elderflowers beginning to dangle from the elder trees. Perhaps the recent warm weather has given these blossoms a chance to bloom. These large, heavily scented corymbs hang gracefully and bring, for many of us, the first smell of summer. As they ripen, these cream-coloured flowers give off a honeyed floral odour that perfumes the air, and my culinary imagination too.

Elderflowers can’t be eaten raw so they need cooking to make them fit for consumption. Many of us make elderflower cordial, a simple and effective way to preserve the smell of these flowers into the summer. Infusing a few fully ripe flowers heads into simple syrup (one part sugar and one part water brought to the boil) is the easiest way to make the cordial.

Some like to add lemons or citric acid to combat the often bitter quality of the flowers and to lend a little tartness to the cordial. For one kilo of sugar and one litre of water you’ll need 10 small bunches of elderflowers. Add to this one sliced lemon and about two tablespoons of critic acid. Once everything has cooled, put it in the fridge and then strain after a week. To use as a drink, dilute with sparkling water. To flavour prosecco or gin, just add a dash. 

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Elderflower gin can be made by using 250g of sugar to 750ml of gin. Don’t heat the gin though. Just add the flower heads and leave in a cool dark place until the sugar dissolves and the gin takes on the colour of the flowers. 

How to make pickled elderflowers

Probably my favourite way of preserving elderflowers is to pickle them in a basic 3-2-1 picking solution (three parts white wine vinegar, two parts water and one part sugar). Bring the solution to the boil and then pour it over the flower heads.

I love pickled elderflower with poached white fish such as cod or pollock, and shellfish, such as scallops and lobster. As well as eating the pickled flowers, the resulting liquid can also be used for dressing salads and with cheeses. The floral quality of the vinegar lends itself to goat’s cheese, helping to cut through its creamy quality. 

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