26 September 2011

Elder flower cordial

We have not bought soft drink/soda or many years but during summer I like having a cold soft drink on hand to serve the family and for anyone who drops buy. We've had many glasses of lemon, orange and passionfruit cordial here, as well as homemade ginger beer, now I've added elder cordial to the list of cool drinks I can serve. We planted our elder bush last year and although it was in flower almost all year, it produced only a few heads of berries. I didn't make anything with them, there were too few, but I hope that as the bush grows, so will our chances of harvesting a bucket of dark elderberries.

We've just had the first full flush of elder flowers since we cut the bush back a few months ago. In a couple of his books, John Seymour recommends picking the flowers early in the day and choosing those on top of the bush that have had the full benefit of the sun. So armed with my trusty Fiskars clippers, I removed about three quarters of the flowers and set to work. The elder flowers must be used straight away.  The cordial recipe is simple, and similar to the one I use for lemon cordial, with the exception of added citric acid and the flowers have to be covered with boiling syrup and then steeped for 24 hours. I used Sophie Grigson's recipe here but added a cup of lemon juice as I had some in the fridge I wanted to use. There is a very small amount of cyanide-like compound in the stems of elders, so make sure you pick the flowers off the stems. You don't have to be obsessed with removing every stem, and don't be scared of it, just make sure you leave most of them out of your cordial.

The cordial is cloudy here but it clears after it settles.

The cordial is delicious served with iced water, ice and a mint leaf or with cold sparkling mineral water. I will also use it  to make ice cream and sorbet over summer, and to give as Christmas gifts. This made about about 3.5 litres/quarts of cordial. I also half filled a plastic bottle to freeze. This is the first time I've made elder flower cordial and I want to make sure it's as freezable as my other cordials. Overall, this is a simple recipe and a welcomed addition to my summer drinks repertoire. It's a keeper.



  1. Hello,
    I use a slightly different recipe to yours but yes, the cordial freezes beautifully. We freeze some ready diluted with water in small plastic bottles for the children to 'grab and go' on days out.
    Winter is closing in here (England) alas our cordial is all gone now! but it's lovely to read about your summery plans!

  2. Hello Rhonda,
    the Elder cordial is so delicious. I once made it fifteen years ago, when we were so happy to have a tree in our garden and we all, our children included, loved it! It was also a very much appreciated gift to others.
    Visiting your site is one of my almost daily pleasures, very inspiring and encourageing. Thank you!

  3. I'll have to look around for an elder bush. I love making our own drinks. My favourite is fizzy rhubarb because it is so pretty and pink! I've been buying any good bottles I find in op shops because I want to make lemon cordial or fizzy rhubarb to add to the many 'thank you' Christmas gifts we need to give to teachers, therapists etc. I love giving homemade gifts.

  4. I recently purchased 2 elderberry plants,they are less than a foot tall at the moment but i've already had a fair bit of growth on them..can hardly wait to try some cordial

  5. This is so cool - seeing how it's made! I buy elder flower cordial in the supermarket so I enjoyed this tutorial. I actually was introduced to this syrup at first in Sweden. It's delicate and delicious, especially with cold, sparkling water!

    This Good Life

  6. When my daughter Meghann came home from Scotland where she'd been WWOOFing she brought back a recipe for elder flower cordial. She'd helped the WWWOOF host make it and wondered if we had an elder tree. Indeed we do and so she set about showing me how to make it. Delicious it was too!

  7. I have bookmarked this post and will look forward for Spring to once again bring all my beautiful elder blossoms.
    Since we are in first Autumn months here, I've just picked my elder berries. I have them frozen, (first laid out on cookie trays and now in zipper bags) waiting to remove the tiny stems as I have time. I am anxious to make my *very first* elder berry cordial later on.

  8. That looks so refreshing!

    Here in the northeastern US I haven't been able to find citric acid for years, though it used to be sold with canning supplies. Now, there's none at any of the grocery stores and feed stores where I've asked for it. I may have to buy it from a chemical supply house...wonder if there is an important difference between "chemical grade" and "food grade" like their is with diatomaceous earth?

  9. Good morning ladies! Quinn, I don't know if there are two grades of citric acid. You can sometimes buy citric acid from the pharmacy here, have you tried your drug store, or a brewing store?

  10. Thankyou for posting, my husband has recently started obsessing about making all sorts of liquid beverages and has collected all the parafenalia to do so, he wants to use all of our vegies/fruits to the best advantage.. he planted an elderberry flower, recently and your post will help greatly.
    I loved the blogs sites you posted recently too especially the lund family, what fun they all must have.
    Seeing your happy smiley face on the top of your blog, almost every morning makes me feel like you are like a trustworthy freind.
    thank you dear lady for your most welcome advice. It is so good to know that there are people who take the time to offer friendship and advice so freely..
    Blessings to you

  11. My elderberry tree is now huge, its arching branches hang over the path to my clothesline creating a lovely natural arbour. I hope you can beat the birds to the berries Rhonda because the berries on our tree were devoured by the honeyeaters before I could pick them. Never mind - at least the flowers can be made into cordial which is also a favorite summer drink here too, so refreshing.

  12. Yay! You've been waiting for this day haven't you Rhonda! Good job.

  13. Hi Rhonda, over the weekend I happened to make orange cordial and posted about it on my blog. I love that it is such a simple thing to make and you get a far better product. I have never tried elder berry/flower, I have no idear what it tastes like- I will have to search some out :)

  14. Looks so delicious and refreshing. I'm imagining it served in frosty glasses with a sprig of fresh mint - sipped while chatting in the shade of your verandah.... enjoy!

  15. Hello Rhonda, I hav not used elder flower before as this tree is a bit uncommon in Sri Lanka. But there is a tree near my mother's house.

    I made your yoghurt this eekend and it was a hit! I used powdered milk and buffalo curd as starter as we don not have yoghurt without gelatine in Kandy. The yoghurt turned out very thick and creamy and delicious!
    I blogged about it over here:

    I also stumbled upon your"simple living in your 30's post and my husband and I ent through it and had a discusion about our future plans. Thank you for the wisdom...

  16. I have made elder flower cordial for a couple of years now. It can be difficult to buy citric acid in the UK because apparantly drug users use it for something??? not sure what. You can get it in the chemist and from homebrew shops. I also make elderflower wine. In the autumn I collect the berries to make red wine and elderberry rob, this is an old fashioned rememedy for colds and flu and we are sure that it helps, better than taking a lemsip. I have made a few bottles but hope that we don't need them.

  17. Did you just use the lemon zest in your cordial? It seemed to read to me in the original recipe after the zest was added, you sliced the lemons up and also included them.

  18. Thank you! I was introduced to elderflower cordial in England a few years ago and loved it. Discovering that it was very hard to find in Australia, and shockingly expensive when found, we put in a couple of elder bushes two years back. Lots of flowers now, so I came looking for a recipe. This looks great.

  19. Hi Rhonda,
    I have just made some elderflower cordial from Sophie Grigsons recipe and I left some of the bigger stems on. After reading your post I'm now concerned that I'm going to give everyone cyanide poisioning. Should I start a new batch or do you think it will be ok?
    P.S: congratulations on your book I cannot wait to have my own copy :)

  20. Mumma K, only you can decide what to do. I have no idea about how many stems are there. This is from the Elderflower entry in Wikipedia:

    The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside which gives rise to cyanide as the metabolism processes it). Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body.
    Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, "herbal teas" made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanogenic glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat.[13]

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