A couple of years ago I planted a black elderflower (Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla ‘Black Lace’) in the front garden. I’d hoped by now I would be harvesting armfuls of flowers to make pink elderflower cordial. Unfortunately it has spent the past year sulking and refusing to reach beyond 50cm despite its normal habit of growing over a metre a year. So until it cheers up, or I give up and replace it, I’m still harvesting white elderflowers from the local park for my summer cordial.
It’s a good idea to check the flowers of each elder as you harvest. Some can have a rather strong smell which affects the taste of the cordial, so only gather flowers with a mild, sweet smell. I generally harvest between 20 and 30 flowerheads, depending on size.
20-30 elderflower heads
1.8 kg granulated sugar
50g citric acid
4 sliced lemons
1.2 litres water
1. Add the water and sugar to a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.
2. Put the elderflowers (shaken to remove insects and bits, but not washed) in a large bowl and add the sliced lemons and citric acid.
3. Pour the cooled sugar syrup over the other ingredients and leave overnight. (A plate can be used to weigh down the lemons and elderflowers if they float at the top of the liquid.)
4. Strain first through a sieve to remove large pieces of elderflower and lemon. Then strain through a double muslin to remove smaller bits.
5. Decant into sterilized bottles. Enjoy the cordial diluted with still or sparkling water. Keeps for around 3 months.
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It’s worth noting that other parts of elder (including leaves and stems) are poisonous. See plants for a future database for more information: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Sambucus+nigra
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