by Alexander Burton inFood In Cornwall

Homemade Elderflower Cordial

Foraging in Cornwall...
The verdant hedgerows and verges of Cornwall are flecked with white crowns of sweet-smelling flowers. This can only mean one thing - It’s elderflower season at last! Now is the perfect time to go out and pick these wonderful flowers and brew up a homemade elderflower cordial at home. Read on to find out how it's done.

This slow, peaceful process will fill your home with a sweetly floral smell, so is perfect for a Sunday afternoon. There’s something marvellous about foraging, as things seem to taste just that little bit more delicious when you know where they are from. Children will love the process of helping to collect the flower heads, but let the grown-ups handle the bottling process – as the syrupy cordial is quite sticky and prone to getting where it should not.

Elderflower cordial is for many, the true taste of summer. This versatile concoction can be mixed with tonic for a sparkling elderflower pressé, used as a mixer in cocktails, or (our favourite) splashed into a glass of Prosecco for a sweet twist.

For this recipe, you will need –

  • 2 kg of white sugar
  • 2 unwaxed lemons and one orange
  • 20 fresh heads of elderflower (rinsed in a washing-up bowl to remove any dirt)
  • 80g citric acid

You’ll also need to gather from the kitchen –

  • A large pot or washing up bowl
  • A square of muslin
  • Empty bottles
  • A funnel

Where to Collect Elderflower?

Once you know what you are looking for, you’ll find elder trees everywhere. The European elder thrives in hedgerows, which makes collecting it from the footpaths around the Helford or Fal Rivers easy. Elder prefer full sun, so look to the edges of woodland, and you’ll soon find it.

When gathering, remember that the elderberries that come from the flower heads will be a vital source of food for wildlife later in the year, so try not to take too many flower heads from any one tree. Simply pinch where the stems converge, or use a pair of secateurs.


Once you’ve plucked your heads of elderflower (20 should do it) and gathered together the accoutrements, it’s time to get to the kitchen.

Step 1

Place your sugar and 1.5 litres of water into a large pot. Dissolve the sugar with a gentle heat, stirring every so often (but do not boil it). Whilst the sugar dissolves, prepare for the next step by zesting your two lemons, then slicing the lemons and orange into rounds.

Step 2

After all of the sugar has dissolved, you’ll next need to bring your mixture to the boil. Make sure to turn off the stove when the syrup boils. Pop in your rinsed heads of elderflower, along with the slices of your citrus fruits. Add in the all-important critic acid, then cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hours.

Step 3

Next, take your piece of muslin and line a colander or sieve, pop it over a large pot and pour the syrup through (you might need to use a ladle as it drips slowly). Discard any bits left in the muslin, and give it a good squeeze to get as much cordial as possible. Decant the cordial into your sterilised bottles and the cordial is ready to serve. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 6 weeks, or fill up an ice-cube tray for those warm summer afternoons up ahead.

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