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 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 real 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? 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 an emulsifier because it keeps fats from separating, it is also a natural preservative and can be utilised as a replacement for vinegar and lemon juice. Essentially it’s just like using very concentrated lemon juice in your cooking without the citrus flavour.
So what does this have to do with elderflower cordial? Much! Most commercially made elderflower cordials have citric acid listed as an 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 feel 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. While the money spent on it is worth it since it is so delicious, it does become quite a splurge-fest. The odd bottle here and there is not an issue, but I don’t use it as intended. It is supposed to be served by adding a lovely sip of it to a glass of gin with ice cubes or mixed with water. 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 citrus 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. This cordial is exactly what I was hoping for. It has a rich flavour that tastes exactly like the elderflowers smell. If you don’t have citric acid on 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 intensive 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 strains 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 cold place.
**This recipe also has reduced sugar. Usually, you use the sugar and water ratio of 1:1 for the syrup. If you think this lacks sweetness feel free to up the amount of sugar.