Summer in a Bottle, Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial | Vagabond BakingThe refreshing taste of elderflower syrup is the liquid embodiment of summer. It is the perfect non-alcoholic thirst quencher for long summer evenings, for picnics and outdoor entertaining. Not that it can’t be served alcoholic, make a delightful white wine spritzer with it for some flirty summer quaffing or splash it into vodka and tonic.

Elderflower Cordial | Vagabond Baking

My father was an amateur wine maker during my childhood, he made wine from nettles, dandelions and elderflowers among other things. We often would go out in the spring and summer gathering natures abundant bounty so that he could transform it into, what I remember to be, pleasing wines. {We were usually allowed a glass with our sunday roast dinner, we felt so grown up!} As well as the wines, he would also make elderflower cordial which I adored. The taste of elderflower immediately takes me back, it is wonderfully nostalgic.

Making elderflower cordial/syrup is the easiest thing in the world, it takes very little time and is ready to use in 24 hours. The short season of the flower is the only thing to hold you back. Keep your eyes peeled for the creamy flowers at the very beginning of summer, on hot days the smell of the elder tree is heady and fragrant.

Elderflower Cordial | Vagabond BakingWhen you are out gathering your elder crowns find them away from traffic, give them a good sniff as the scent can vary from tree to tree. You are looking for a pleasant floral, summery smell, some can have the whiff of cat pee about them which are most definitely the ones to avoid! Use the flowers soon after they have been cut too, if you leave them hanging around, even in the fridge, they turn catty. Pick them on a warm dry day.

Gather your elderflower heads

Gather your elderflower heads

I gathered the flowers for mine here in the garden of the property we’re house sitting. We have spent the most blissful, sun-filled week with Howie the labrador again. The location is so rural, up a quiet track on the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, the many Elder trees here are untainted by pollution and car fumes and smell incredible.

This recipe is just for a small batch of 500 ml which will make up about 2 1/2 litres when diluted with water. The recipe can be doubled to make more and the cordial can be frozen for use later in the year, just decant it into plastic tubs/bottles. For my vagabond life, I just made a small batch. We did however drink the lot over the weekend so I made some more. It’s so easy though.

Elderflower Cordial | Vagabond BakingElderflower Cordial

makes a small batch of 500 ml {2 cups} of the syrup, makes 2 1/2 litres when diluted. Easily multiplied

two 250 ml {1 cup} glass bottles, sterilised,  or one 1 litre {2 cups} 

  • 10 elderflower heads
  • 250 g { 1 heaped cup } caster sugar
  • 650 ml {2 + 3/4 cups } water
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice

Gather the flower heads, find an abundantly flowered Elder and snip off about 10 flower heads. They should look fresh and unblemished, smell them too, they should smell heady and floral not unpleasant. Be careful not to shake off much of the pollen.

Check the flower heads for any bugs like green-fly, the hot sugar syrup would be a sticky end for them! Don’t wash the flower heads though, you’ll wash all that lovely scent away.

Measure the caster sugar into pan then pour in the water. I used golden caster sugar which is why the syrup looks brown in the early pictures.

Place the pan over a medium heat and once the sugar has dissolved add the flower heads, flowers first into the liquid. Bring up to a gentle simmer and cook for around 8 to 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced a little and become syrupy.

Take off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Set aside to cool then cover the pan. Leave it somewhere cool {but not the fridge} for 24 hours for the flavour to develop.

Strain the syrup through a clean tea towel/cheese cloth/muslin then decant into warm, sterilised bottles.

Store in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

To serve as a cordial, dilute one part syrup with four or five parts water, I prefer sparkling water. This is fabulous in a pitcher, with plenty of ice and some slices of lemon, perfect for outdoor summer eating.

Add a splash to your vodka and tonic to give it a summery edge.

Make sorbets and ice lollies with it.

It pairs wonderfully with gooseberries.

Pour it over pancakes/crepes, it makes a delicious change.Elderflower Cordial | Vagabond Baking


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11 Responses

  1. plumful says:

    Looks beautiful… I’d love to try it in a gin cocktail in the sunshine!

  2. gardeningshoe says:

    OK – I’m convinced. I’m off now to gather a trug of blossom. Thanks!

  3. trixpin says:

    Looks and sounds lovely. I’ve been eyeing up all the elder blossoms around recently and considering cordial so you’re post is a great inspiration. Thank you!

  4. chef mimi says:

    Beautiful. And what an incredible action shot!

  1. July 19, 2013