Recipe Elderflower Cordial


Staff member
11 Oct 2012
Local time
1:49 AM
SE Australia
Due to the latesness this year of a lot of flowers, following a very cold and long spring, the elder trees around my way (Cheshire) have only just reached full flowering, so I decided to take advantage of them being so very late this year (4-6 weeks later than normal) and make some homemade Elderflower Cordial.

Ingredients (makes approx. 1.5-2L)
25-35 big heads of elderflower blossom
1kg caster sugar
50g citric acid
2 unwaxed lemons, thinly sliced

It is a pretty easy recipe to make.
  • Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it allowing it to cool.
  • Now go and collect the elderflowers ideally first thing in the morning and on a dry morning, and make sure you get them as early as possible - you are after the nectar & pollen. Pick the newly opened flowers, leave anything that has brown petals showing or is full of insects. Some of the ones I picked were not that large, so I collected 50 flowers heads as a precaution.
  • Take them home, DO NOT WASH, but lay them out carefully to allow the insects to depart - less protein in the cordial that way (:D).
  • Then add the citric acid to the cooled sugar water, stir and add the blossoms* and the sliced lemons and cover for 2 days, stirring occasionally.
  • Filter/drain the syrup using a muslin cloth (or tea towel if you don't have one) and bottle in sterilized bottles.
The cordial is reported to keep for 2-4 months, and can also be frozen to extend its life. In theory, it should make a little over 1.5L of cordial... theory in this household has made more than 2L of cordial....

My version is slightly browner than expected - I only had golden granulated sugar available, and is also more cloudy than expected, but there is a lot of pollen in my coridal which is was evident when collecting the flower heads, on the bags afterwards, on the kitchen work surfaces, my hands... and also in the bottom of the bowel that the cordial was made in.

Also some of the flower heads has slightly pink petals which I think may have contributed to this. It still tastes yummy.


Some brown is normal during the 'maturing' stage. Visible here are also some of the pink flowers that we had locally. For some reason, not all of our elder trees around here are completely white!

2 of the 1/5L bottles ready for labling. As you can see it is browner and cloudier than expected, but still tastes really good. The remaining cordial is currently frozen due to not having enough bottles...

(*Various literature I have read suggests that the least amount of stalk possible on the flower heads will prevent any bitterness from coming through into the syrup and this is what I did.)

Next is nettle cordial - fingers crossed. Should be ready next week.
Nettle Cordial? Not heard of that. What does it taste like? I mean, don't just say 'nettles'..

I was thinking about making some elderflower, maybe I'll get organised!

(we've got plenty of nettles on the reserve, of course, and one of our wildlife experts thinks we have some of a non-stinging variety. Not Dead Nettles, but stinging nettles with no, or much reduced sting. They've been found on another nature reserve in East Anglia. I offered to test her theory, and sure enough we do have some that you can brush against and not get stung. I wonder if they taste any different?)
Nettles are a fantastic plant. Much underrated, but unless you cut them down and force new growth, most are now too far into flowering to be used for anything - the oxalic acid in their leaves will have built up to too high a level for the human body which can cause kidney stones etc. I was able to pick fresh younger leaves when I went out last week because there are some patches of nettles under dense trees that have not come on as far as the others. I also know of various non-stinging varities as well, we used to have some in our garden when we lived in Surrey. I have also found out that you can eat Dead nettle leaves as well and use them in place of ordinary nettles - but have not tried that one yet, not having any dead nettles where we are now.

They have a slightly peppery taste when the leaves are eaten and are an exceptionally good source of many important nutrients/minerals such as calcium and iron. What does nettle cordial taste of? well it is one of those really refreshing drinks that explaining what it tastes of is really difficult, but it is wonderful and something we have purchased for many years. This will be the first time I have tried making it. We usually purchase the Thorncroft Wild Nettle Cordial (around £3 for a bottle, dilutes well, so lasts) as a treat. Monday is bottling day, so it will be interesting to see how it comes out!
A week after bottling and the Elderflower Cordial is nowhere near as cloudy. The bottle on the right is the Elderflower cordial and you can see how much is has cleared compared to the pictures above. Looking more carefully, you can also see all the pollen at the bottom. A second batch has also been made up today, but with a touch less sugar (750g of white granulated sugar this time around).


Elderflower cordial is clearing (on the right). The left is the freshly bottled Nettle cordial made with rather brown sugar!


Loads of pollen is settling in the bottom of the bottles now.
I love elderflower cordial, but it's so expensive, so it's a rare treat. I've never thought of making my own, so thanks for the recipe. I'll keep it to try next year - here in our part of Devon the elderflowers are long gone.
I love elderflower cordial, but it's so expensive, so it's a rare treat. I've never thought of making my own, so thanks for the recipe. I'll keep it to try next year - here in our part of Devon the elderflowers are long gone.

I bottled up the 2nd batch yesterday. Not as much pollen in it this time, so it is clearer, but on yesterday's bike ride it was clear there were still plenty of Elder trees in flower and some still had buds on them.

You might be able to try the honeysuckle cordial later in the year. Honeysuckle flowers twice a year, here we are still on our first flowering...
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