Pale yellow elderflower heads

Making elderflower cordial

It’s a bank holiday weekend and all the elderflower has just come into bloom, so it’s the perfect time to make some elderflower cordial!

Picking elderflowers from a big tree

We set off yesterday morning with a bag, a pair of scissors and the long pole we use to open our loft hatch for hooking branches (which did result in a few odd looks from people). We’re very lucky to live where we do because we have lots of bushes near our house and a huge park full of them.

It started raining shortly after we left the house but decided to carry on anyway. People say you aren’t suppose to pick wet elderflower because it alters the taste – the flowers become less aromatic because the pollen is damp. But it hadn’t rained up until that point and as we were forecast rain all weekend, so it was then or never… **Update: our cordial was delicious even though we picked wet blooms!**

After collecting 30 elderflower heads our shoes were soaked through from scrambling around in bushes.

Wet trousers and shoes

These flowers were perfect for picking: bushy, creamy colour, strong smell and no dead flowers.

Pale yellow elderflower heads

And after de-bugging all the heads, they were ready to steep. I used River Cottage’s recipe. The ingredients were put in a maslin pan so there was plenty of space for the heads and left to steep overnight.

Elderflower and citrus fruit on table

In the morning I drained the mixture through a muslin cloth to remove any bits. In the end I found it less of a faff to wrap my colander in muslin and drain into a smaller bowl, and then transfer it back to the pan for heating.

I was getting a bit worried at this point because I was expecting to see a pale green mixture, like the Belvoir cordial but it was actually quite a dark brown! I double checked the recipe and I’d done everything right so it wasn’t that…

Brown elderflower cordial

I added the sugar and that made it more of a caramel colour (above). Once I put the pan on the heat it turned paler and started to smell sweeter. I’ve since found out that if you use the the cold steep method (steeping in cold water rather than boiling), the colour will be much paler.

Bottled elderflower cordial

And here is our elderflower cordial! It has a really lovely colour and smells really sweet and creamy. I can’t wait for it to cool so we can have a glass.

The River Cottage recipe makes 2 litres and we don’t drink a huge amount of squash/cordial so I filled the bottles most of the way up and I’m going to preserve the spare ones in the freezer.

Hopefully in a few months there will be enough elderberries to turn into jam!

Need help identifying elderflowers?

Check out my blog post about identifying this plant.

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