Early summer always means happy days in my book. Late afternoons in the garden, long walks in the park and foraging for flowers. Elderflowers to be precise. They smell intensely fragrant and serve as far more than just a lovely room scent. To be fair their smell alone is a reason to pick them but for me the reasons are more of a culinary nature. The time to pick elderflowers is now, so get out there!
I love making liqueur and jellies out of them but let's start with the most traditional use: the elderflower cordial. There are dozens of variations and recipes out there but over the years I made my own. One of the biggest differences is that I actually take the time to cut the flowers off the stems. Most people just use the entire flower heads but I prefer to remove as much stem as possible. It gives a much nicer flavour and reduces the chance of any aftertaste.
You might feel tempted to reduce the sugar, trust me I tired. This is as low as you can take it without ruining the flavour. It might sound like a very excessive amount but it is needed. The taste clings to the sugar, not the water. Without it you will have an immensely disappointing cordial. There are recipes which call for almost the double amount I used so you will just have to try and see what works for you and always keep in mind that this is not consumed in a pure form. It is diluted in water and should never be used to hydrate yourself during the day but rather as a treat with lots of ice in whatever drink you might fancy.
If you're more of the adventurous type you could try pouring it over strawberries or adding it to baked goods or ice cream or try it as extra ingredient in various drinks. Kids love it in lemonade but you can just as well serve it as very sophisticated drink with gin on ice.
Elderflower Cordial with Lemon Zest
- Yields 2 L of cordial
- 1 ½ L 6 cups of water
- 150 g 5 ½ oz of elderflowers without stems, about 35 heads
- 1 kg 5 cups of golden sugar
- 6 lemons
- 1 orange
- 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. Also do not wash the flower heads because you will lose too much flavour. I dedicated an entire post to picking these since you can confuse them with other plants. If you are new to elderflowers go have a look here.
- 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 the orange and squeeze them out.
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil and remove from the hot stove top. Add the flowers, zest and juice from the lemons and oranges and give it a stir. Cover with a tight fitting lid or plate and leave to steep over night.
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour into bottles or mason jars. It keeps in the fridge for about 4-6 weeks. For later use you can also freeze it in containers or freeze it in ice cube trays. The season for elderflowers is from May through June, so it is best to be quick with collecting them.