The most refreshing drink. Ever! Heavenly flowery and tangy. Our homemade elderflower cordial is perfect with sparkling water on a summer day.
Bright elderflowers are shining from elder trees everywhere at the moment. It always makes me think of my Grandma, who every summer used to supply us with a year’s worth of her most amazing homemade elderflower cordial – or hollersaft as it is known in Austria.
Granny’s elderflower cordial is different from any other elderflower cordial I have ever tried. Having moved about a thousand miles away, I needed to start making my own. My dear Grandma was so kind to pass on her secret of the one and only best elderflower cordial recipe ever!
Adapting granny’s elderflower cordial recipe
There were two things we had to adapt about her recipe, carefully making a point of not changing the flavour of the final prouct. In her original method, my grandma does not heat the batch up at any point in the process. Instead, she lets the liquid infuse with the flowers for several days. At the end, she would add sodium benzoate as a preservant to keep the cordial from fermenting and going alcoholic or moldy. Sodium benzoate is a form of benzoic acid, which is commonly found in a lot of berries as well as some other natural foods. So it’s not a super toxic food additive, but we decided to work around it for simplicity.
So here’s how we do it: At first, we heat up the pot just to boiling point, remove from heat and let it soak. Instead of several days, we only have to soak it for a few hours. Secondly, we omitted the added preservative. Instead, before bottling the cordial, bring it to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. This sterilises the elderflower coridial by killing off wild yeasts, bacteria and mold spores.
‘Hang on, you said something about not using any preservative. What about the citric acid in your recipe?’
Citric acid brings a lot of tang! to the cordial. It also has a role in extracting the flavour from the elderflowers. Citric acid is most commonly found in lemons and other citrus fruits in nature. To replace the citric acid in this recipe to get the same tang, you would need about one litre of fresh lemon juice. That’s the equivalent of 20 to 30 lemons!
On it’s own, the citric acid is not strong enough to keep the bottled elderflower cordial from fermenting. Trust me, we tried! (… and ended up making elderflower champagne. There are worse things coming from failed experiments!) Citric acid is safe to consume in comparatively large amounts without any concerns at all – or have you never eaten an orange before?
Citric acid is cheap and effective. Yes, it is a food additive, but a very harmless one.
Are you wondering where to buy citric acid? It can sometimes be a bit tricky to find – pharmacies and ethnic food shops are a good place to look. It’s also easily ordered online, just look for food grade quality. We recommend Organic Citric Acid which is GMO free.
Elderflowers blossom in late spring. Individual flower heads are at their prime for picking when the little flowers have fully opened and have not started to wilt. Best time to pick is late morning on a dry day. Watch out for a slightly unpleasant aroma the flowers might develop in the afternoon, or when they are past their best.
Our homemade elderflower cordial makes a perfect summer drink when mixed with cold sparkling mineral water. It also adds a fresh and fruity note to a glass of wine, champagne or a cocktail.
But you can use elderflower cordial for other things than just drinks… Try our other elderflower recipes:
Enjoy the summer!
Paul & Sophie
- 15 elderflower heads
- 2 lemons sliced
- 1/4 cup citric acid
- 2.5 L water
- 5 cups sugar
- Check elderflowers for dirt and little insects – don't wash!
- Add elderflowers, lemon slices and citric acid to the water in a big pan. (The only ingredient not yet going in is the sugar)
- Heat up to boiling point, stirring occasionally, remove from heat and let infuse for a few hours.
- Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth, to catch all the flowers. Squeeze all that yummy flavour out of the pulp in the muslin!
- Return liquid to the pan and add the sugar.
- Bring to boil again, stirring frequently to dissolve all the sugar, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, sterilise some glass bottles (don't forget about the lids!) with boiling water. If you are going to use a funnel or any other pouring aid, sterilise that, too.
- Bottle up the finished cordial while it's still boiling hot.
- Depending on desired sweetness, dilute 1:5 to 1:10.
- Best enjoyed with sparkling mineral water.
- Optional: Squeeze in some fresh lemon for extra tanginess!