Elderflower Cordial

A Blog by Mary Colvin – one of our Trustees

We’ve all gone Elderflower Crazy – the Spirit is alive!

Cycling through the winding roads of Fife these past couple of weeks the scented flowers in the hedgerows trigger memories of growing up in Ireland. The smell of the elderflowers is really distinctive. Equally the odour when they get musty is horrid; another lesson I learned as a child when my sister and I left them lying about after our pretend ‘cooking’ infusion sessions.

With lockdown restrictions and time to spare I decided last week to relive these hazy days of childhood summers and collect clusters of these creamy-white flowers and have a go at making some elegant cordial. The Elder tree in our garden is resplendent this year with sprays of highly scented flowers. I pushed aside all the folklore stories I grew up believing; that this is the ‘Devil’s Tree’ and that in Ireland witches rode elder sticks, not broomsticks!

On a bright, dry morning, when the flower heads were at their finest, I chose 20 of the best sprays. The secret is to use them immediately as they lose that lovely scent within hours. I used a recipe that included citric acid but you don’t need to. The acid acts as a preservative, but adds a sharp tang too. I had a bit of a run round to find some but a whole food shop came up trumps. I sourced

2.0 kg white sugar either granulated or caster, 2 unwaxed lemons and 85g of citric acid.

1.5 litres of water in a large saucepan.

Good idea to look out some bottles/container for storage as they will need a sterilize. Wash well, rinse and put in a cool oven just before you need them

Now you’re ready to go

  • As instructed I gave each flower head a good shake to get rid of the bugs.
  • Measure the water and the sugar into the pan and gently heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Give it a wee stir now and again.
  • Pare the zest from the lemons and then slice them into rounds.
  • Once sugar is dissolved bring syrup to the boil and then switch off
  • Now add to the pan, the lemons, zest, citric acid and the flowers and stir well.
  • Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hours

Next day the smell from the pot was so good! I used a ladle to pour it all through a colander which was placed over a large bowl. I then used a clean tea towel to line the colander and let the syrup drip through slowly. The bits in the towel I discarded. I filled and sealed 3 large bottles now in my fridge, and also put some in ice cube trays in the freezer.

Feeling jubilant with the results of my cordial I am now eyeing up the gooseberries to make tasty elderflower and gooseberry jam or my friend recommends I watch out for the elderberries and mix them with pear for a most delicious jam. It seems the options are endless.

But for now the sun is out, the weeds are under control and the time is perfect for a seat and a large glass of homemade elderflower cordial. The associations in folklore are so interesting and I imagine myself falling asleep under an elder tree in full bloom and being invited into the world of the fairies where I would get protection from all the evil spirits! What great things happen when we open our mind to spaces and places and we connect with nature.

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