It’s finally arrived! Elderflower season is upon us. I have been picking elderflowers since years and turning them into cordial, cocktails, jellies and desserts. I love tradition and routine but every now and then I like to mix things up and try new ingredients or recipes. This year citric acid was on my bucket list. Making elderflower cordial with pure lemons has been successful for years and while I usually live by the phrase “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” I do believe that trying new things shouldn’t be affected by this.
Admittedly it felt strange ordering the citric acid. The uses listed ranged from kettle descaler to food ingredient. So what is citric acid actually? While it does sound like an aggressive cleaning agent it is a component found in citrus fruits, they all contain it in high concentrations. Within the European Union it is listed as E330 on food labels and is used widely. In ice creams it is acting as emulsifier because it keeps fats from separating, it is also a natural preservative and can be used as replacement for vinegars and lemon juice. Essentially it’s just like using very concentrated lemon juice in your cooking without the lemon flavour.
So what does this have to do with elderflower cordial? Much! Most commercially made elderflower cordials have citric acid listed as ingredient. I always wondered if that is what made them taste quite distinctively crisp. Don’t get me wrong, I love my homemade elderflower cordial but I do wonder if I could make it taste more like an artisanal elderflower cordial from the local shop. They have this floral taste to them that I never managed to capture.
The locally bought artisanal elderflower cordial comes with a hefty price tag, mind you it is worth it since it is so delicious! While buying the odd bottle is not a problem it does become quite a splurge-fest way too easily. I simply don’t use it as intended which is probably a dainty sip of it in a glass of gin with ice cubes or mixed into fresh lemonade. But not in this house…
As soon as the season hits I pour elderflower onto and into everything as if my life depended on it. I drizzle it on cakes, make ice pops, ice cream, drinks and add it to baked goods just to name a few. I had to give citric acid a go and hope for the best. Before you can make this delicious elderflower cordial you need to harvest flowers. I dedicated an entire post to picking elderflowers since you can confuse them with other plants. If you are new to elderflowers I have made a guide on how to pick them here.
Of course I couldn’t bear the thought of removing fresh lemon entirely from the recipe. I am quite a lemon aficionado and manage to consume them on a daily basis so I picked the two smallest ones I could find and added them to my mix of flowers, sugar and citric acid.
It’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. It is exactly what I was hoping for. An elderflower cordial with a deep and rich flavour that tastes exactly like the elderflowers smell. If you don’t have citric acid at hand or prefer not to use it, here is a recipe for elderflower cordial without citric acid.
- 200g (7 oz or 5 cups) of elderflowers without stems, about 45 heads
- 2 L (8½ cup) water
- 1.5 kg (7½ cups) sugar
- 6 tbsp citric acid
- 2 lemons, zested and sliced
- Collect only fresh flower heads and make sure the tiny buds have just opened and use them the same day. This is important because the lovely fragrance will turn into bitterness if you wait too long. Do not wash the flower heads because you will lose too much flavour.
- Make sure to look through them carefully and remove any insects. While doing so make sure to remove unopened buds and any flowers that are not perfectly fresh. They will otherwise spoil the taste. When you are done with this the most labour intense task is done.
- Zest the lemons and slice them. Don't discard anything, all will be needed.If you do not have a lemon zester then peel them carefully with a vegetable peeler.
- Place the flowers with the citric acid and zested lemon slices with their peel in a large pot with lid.
- In a second pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil and remove from the hot stove top. Pour the sugary, hot water over the flower mix and give it a stir. Cover with a tight fitting lid or plate and leave to steep over night.
- The next day strain the cordial through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Discard the flower and lemon mix. Fill the cordial into sterilised bottles or jars and store in a dark and cool place.
**This recipe also has reduced sugar, usually you use a sugar and water ratio of 1:1 for the syrup. If you think it lacks sweetness feel free to up the sugar.