Elderflower Cordial Background
Elderflowers bloom in late spring and early summer in New England. They are the flowers of elderberry shrubs, Sambucus canadensis. The dark purple berries of elderberry plants are used in both culinary and medicinal applications. Elderberry syrup is used as a common cold remedy and is often taken as a preventative to boost immunity throughout cold and flu season.
Elderflowers bloom in large clusters of tiny white blossoms. They have a light floral fragrance and impart a delicate floral flavor to culinary recipes. One of the most common recipes in which to use elderflowers is elderflower cordial, also known as syrup or squash. Recipes for elderflower cordial can be traced back to the Roman empire and it is still a popular recipe made through Europe today. It is mainly used to mix into sparkling water or cocktails to create light and refreshing summery drinks.
Elderflower Foraging Tips
Their leaves are dark green and pinnate with normally 5-9 leaflets arranged oppositely on each leaf stem. Correctly identifying their leaves is very important when foraging for elderflowers or elderberries as other non-edible and poisonous plants have similar-looking flower clusters. Whenever you are foraging for wild edible plants it is imperative to be 100% sure of the plant’s identification. Always check our reference guides and ask a local expert to confirm the plant if you can.
Making Elderflower Cordial
Making elderflower cordial is an easy way to bring out and preserve the flavors of this beautiful summer flower. After you have foraged or picked elderflowers from your garden and are ready to make the cordial rinse then in a bowl of water to shake off any dirt or bugs that may be hiding in the flower heads.
The stems of the plant are not edible so you'll want to pick off the tiny blooms and add them to a clean jar. You'll need about 2 cups of loosely packed blooms for this recipe. Slice 1 whole lemon and add it to the jar with the flowers.
Then bring 1 part water to 1 part sugar to a boil to dissolve the sugar and make a simple syrup. Once the syrup has boiled pour it over the elderflowers and lemon slices in the jar. Cover and let the mixture steep at room temperature overnight or for 24 hours to extract the flavor from the elderflowers.
Storing Elderflower Cordial
After the cordial has steeps you'll want to strain off the liquid and discard the flowers and lemon slices. Pour the strained cordial into a flip-top bottle or a mason jar with a lid and store it in the refrigerator to use within 2-4 weeks. Refrigerating the cordial will keep it from starting to ferment. Elderflowers have wild yeast on them that will start to eat the sugar in the syrup and turn the mixture into elderflower champagne instead of a sweet cordial.
You can also pasteurize the cordial to store it at room temperature for a longer time. This is a great option if you make a large batch at once. To do this you will need to let it boil in a hot water bath for 20 minutes as you would do for canning pickles or jams. The bottles will need to be sterilized in boiling water first before bottling the cordial. Once the cordial is bottled, place the bottles in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and then let it cook at a low boil for 20 minutes. Remove them from the water bath and cool them to room temperature. Pasteurized cordial will keep for up to 1 year stored at room temperature in a cool and dark spot of your house or pantry.
Elderflower Cordial Questions:
Where do I find elderflowers?
Elderflowers are the flowers of the elderberry plant. Elderberries grow throughout the US and the world. There are different types of elderberries. My best advice is to research what types grow in your area and when they are in bloom. In Nantucket, they tend to bloom later than the mainland, in July. Elderberries like wetlands and wet areas. They can often be found growing along road sides, but I would discourage you from foraging on a well-traveled road because the plants may be sprayed or drinking unclean road water runoff. If you have a yard I would plant one or some elderberry plants on your property so you have them available to you every year. We will be planting a bunch next spring.
When are elderflowers in bloom?
It really depends on your area of the world. It's different everywhere. It can be as early as May or as late as July in New England alone.
I don't have access to elderflower. Can I use another flower?
Yes, you can use any edible flower to make cordial or syrup. The flavor will be different than elderflower cordial. Something similar that blooms around the same time is honeysuckle. See below for links to other flower syrups in my recipe archives.
How long will the cordial keep?
It will keep for about 2-4 weeks in the refrigerator or you can pasteurize it to be stored at room temperature for up to 1 year.
For more edible flower syrups and ways to use them check out these recipes:
- Strawberry Elderflower Gin Smash
- Wild Elderflower Honey Lemon Drizzle Cake
- Lilac Cordial (Syrup)
- Wild Honeysuckle Strawberry Lemonade
- Lilac Gin Fizz Cocktail
- Rose Simple Syrup
- Wild Violet Syrup & Color Changing Lemonade
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