Elderflower Cordial

elderflowers
Gathering elderflowers with my dear friend Rebecca

I fell head-over-heels for elderflower cordial many years ago when I lived in London. The delicate, muscat-flavored syrup may be used in cocktails and desserts, but the simplest, most sublime way to enjoy it is with sparkling water. I love elderflower soda, each sip blooming with the essence of spring and summer. Now that I make my own elderflower cordial, the associations are not just with my time in England, but also the lovely days and places where I foraged the blossoms here in Southern California.

elderflowers
Many other creatures depend on elderflowers; forage responsibly!

Black elder trees (Sambucus nigra, also known as European elder) grow throughout Europe and North America, typically in sunny locations. Here in Southern California, we also have an abundance of blue elder (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea, also known as Sambucus mexicana or Mexican elder). When foraging, pick flower heads that are fully open with sweet smelling white or cream colored blossoms (brown ones can have the musky odor of cat urine!) and shake off any insects. Once you get home, do another insect inspection and separate the flowers from the stems using your fingers. If you’re like me, keep sniffing your fingers as you go along, marveling at how they’re covered in magically fragrant elderflower dust.

To make a cordial, steep the flowers plus lemons (some people also add oranges) and citric acid (used as a preservative) in a sweetened syrup. Traditionally one uses sugar, which has a more neutral sweetness, but this year I used honey and personally I liked it even better. Different recipes call for leaving the mixture to sit for one to five days before straining; I usually go for about two. To use the syrup, dilute it to taste in still or sparkling water, or try it in cocktails, drizzled over cake, ice cream, etc.

Elderflower Cordial – Sugar Version

Makes about about 10 cups

25 elderflower heads
2 unwaxed organic lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon citric acid
8 cups sugar
2 quarts water

Shake the elderflower heads to remove any dirt or insects. Separate the flowers from the stalks, trying to remove as much of the stems as you can (a few are fine, but too many can be toxic). Place the flowers in a large bowl with the lemon slices and citric acid.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool to lukewarm. Pour the syrup on top of the elderflowers and lemons and stir to combine.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let stand for 1-3 days, depending on taste. Strain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Elderflower cordial also freezes well; to freeze, pour into freezer-safe containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace to allow for expansion.

elderflowers

Elderflower Cordial – Honey Version

Makes about about 10 cups

25 elderflower heads
2 unwaxed organic lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon citric acid
4 cups honey
6 cups water

Shake the elderflower heads to remove any dirt or insects. Separate the flowers from the stalks, trying to remove as much of the stems as you can (a few are fine, but too many can be toxic). Place the flowers in a large, heatproof bowl with the lemon slices, citric acid, and honey.

Bring the water to a boil. Pour the water into the elderflower bowl and stir to dissolve the honey.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let stand for 1-3 days, depending on taste. Strain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Elderflower cordial also freezes well; to freeze, pour into freezer-safe containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace to allow for expansion.

elderflowers

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2 Responses to "Elderflower Cordial"

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  1. rebecca

    August 5, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Having been privy to tasting your elderflower cordial with sparkling water, I will say that its the nicest I’ve ever had :).

    Reply
    • Emily

      August 7, 2013 at 8:12 am

      Why, thank you! :)

      Reply

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