If you are really quick and very lucky, you may just get the end of the elderflower season. I was ambling home after a dog walk last week and spotted a glut of these on the edge of a field, which I duly and promptly helped myself to. I made sure I picked evenly and left enough on the plant to help it spread next year (the real reason is I am vertically challenged and I couldn’t reach the rest, ho-hum).
You really do need to use the flowers as soon as possible, cook them the same day if you can. After 24 hours they will start to smell of cat’s wee (not nice) and even after a night sitting in the kitchen they will be giving off a slightly unpleasant smell, so use them when they are at their freshest. I use citric acid which you can buy in brewers shops (if they still exist), online or the chemist. It helps to preserve it and gives a sharpness. I always use unwaxed lemons for this recipe as scrubbing the wax off is quite a job and I’m never sure if there is any remaining as you can’t see it.
You can make the cordial without the citric acid as I have in the past, freeze the finished cordial in small plastic bottles (leaving room for expansion!) so that it’s preserved for certain. I love to use it in cakes, drizzled on a Victoria sponge, just as it come out of the oven. Add to a homemade custard for a floral twist, see my Midsummer Strawberry Cream cake recipe.
Yield 2 Litres
- 1 kg Granulated sugar
- 1 liter boiling water
- 50 g. citric acid or Juice of 2 Large Lemons, if you can't get hold of the citric acid.
- zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
- 15 elderflower heads, stalks removed & check for any bugs and rinse if necessary
- Put the sugar in a large basin or bowl with the boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add the citric acid or lemon juice and the lemon zest.
- Shake the elderflowers to remove any insects and add the flowers to the sugar syrup. Cover and leave to stand for 1-2 days, stirring morning and night.
- Strain the elderflower cordial through muslin and decant into sterilised bottles. It’s now ready to use.
Now I love elderflower cordial but I am a huge fan of shrubs and this flower works so well in this drink. Shrubs are so refreshing, when combined with sparkling water or cocktails, a shrub stimulates your appetite, quenches your thirst and dispenses a quick and energising pick-me-up. Making a shrub is basically a way of preserving. It’s an infused syrup, made with fresh ingredients, fortified with apple cider vinegar and then aged, which develops its complexity and flavour. When freshly brewed, shrubs possess a strong taste of vinegar. However, they are enchanting potions, and vinegar is the key to their amazing taste. With time, all of a shrub’s harsh vinegar edges round out and meld with the syrup to make the perfect hybrid of sweet and sour. Shrubs can make for a sophisticated larder staple, especially for people who find jams and syrups to be too sweet.
Yield 740 ml
- 10-12 Elderflowers, stalks removed & check for any bugs and rinse if necessary
- 1 Lemon, paired
- 225g Granulated Sugar
- 120g Cider Apple Vinegar
- 350ml boiling water
- Put the heads of Elderflowers with the paired lemon into a wide mouth jar and poured the boiling water over the top and allowed it to steep and cool for 20 min. Strained and reserve the liquid.
- Add the sugar and mixed it well, add the cider apple vinegar and stir. Place in the fridge for 24 hours. After chilling, filled a glass a 1/4 full of Elderflower Scrub and finished the rest with cold sparkeling water.
When a shrub is freshly brewed, it possess a strong taste of vinegar. However, with time, all of a shrub's harsh vinegar edges round out and meld with the syrup to make the perfect hybrid of sweet and sour.