The Essence of Summer
June is here and it’s time to make the annual batch of elderflower cordial. An aunt of mine always made this when we were children. I loved it, so a few years ago I started to make my own. The flavour is unique and refreshing, and heralds the arrival of summer for me.
Beautifully scented, frothy cream elderflowers are to be seen all over the fields and gardens of Ireland at the moment. They will be around for the next couple of weeks, so seize the moment!
I have given guideline quantities below, but the amount of sugar, water or lemons you use can be varied to taste. Most people use more sugar to water than I have here.
20-30 elderflower heads
1.5 kg of sugar
2 litres of boiling water
2-4 lemons and/or limes
50g of citric acid – available from pharmacies
Gather your flowers (not from roadside trees, too polluted). Gently shake them to remove tiny insects.
Make up a syrup by pouring the boiling water over the sugar in a large pan. Keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Thickly slice the lemons and limes and add these to the pan (you can zest these first and add that too if preferred). Stir in the citric acid. Now add the elderflowers. Cover the pan with a cloth and leave the mixture to steep for 24-48 hours.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or muslin (I have also used coffee filters) to remove flowers and fruit. Bottle in very clean bottles using a funnel. Glass bottles are best but I have used plastic ones too, enabling me to freeze some of the cordial.
- Dilute the cordial with sparking water. Add ice and a slice and a sprig of mint for a delicious summery drink
- Add a splash to a gin and tonic, or to a white wine spritzer
- Pour over vanilla ice cream
- Use to sweeten rhubarb, gooseberries or strawberries
- Add to salad dressings
Second photo by Claire Sutton (Flickr, Creative Commons)