Gillian's Larder

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Elderflower cordial

Elderflower cordial

The sweetly scented flowers of the elder tree make a lovely aromatic cordial, perfect for diluting to make a delicious, refreshing, summer drink.

  • 20 large heads of elderflowers
  • 2.5kg / 5lb 8oz sugar (or a bit less)
  • 85g / 3oz citric acid
  • 2 good sized lemons —or swap one or more of them for an orange or a grapefruit
  • 1.5 litres /2 pints water

Wash the elderflowers to remove bits and pieces. Cut off the stalks, leaving the flowers and their individual stalks. Grate or pare the zest from the lemons and slice the lemons. Put the sugar and the water into a pan. Heat (not boil) and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Bring the syrup to the boil. Turn off the heat. Drop in the flowers, lemons, zest and citric acid. Stir, cover and leave for 24 hours.

Sterilise* some bottles and stoppers. Scald a tea towel and use it to strain the liquid from the soggy vegetable matter.† Let it drip slowly through.

Use a scalded funnel and ladle to fill the bottles. The cordial is ready to drink straight away and will keep in the fridge for six weeks.

To use it, dilute it to taste with cold water, soda water or sparkling wine. Or pour a strong dilution into iced lolly moulds (2 water : 1 cordial is about right).

Alternatively, freeze the cordial in ice cube trays and defrost as needed.

* Boiling water will do the job; or a Campden tablet from a wine-making kit.

† An easy way to use a cloth as a strainer is to tie a bit of string to each corner, and tie the other ends to the legs of an upside-down stool. Stand the receiving bowl underneath.

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I'd love to hear how you get on! You can email me at: gillian@

Good luck!