Although there are a number of brands of ready-made Elderflower Cordial available now, it is is really easy to make your own. I think home-made Elderflower Cordial is best as it has a zesty lemony taste which ready-made versions don’t seem to have. Also, it is cheaper as the main ingredient is free!
Elderflowers are a good starting point for new “foragers” as they are so widely available and easily recognisable. They are the blossoms of the elder (Sambucus nigra) which is a small tree or shrub commonly found in woodlands and gardens throughout the UK. The small creamy-white flowers are arranged in big clusters and bloom in late May or early June. In autumn, they turn into purple elderberries which also have a range of culinary uses.
This luscious home-made elderflower cordial is so easy to make and can be used in soft drinks, as a cooking ingredient or to bring a floral note to cocktails.
About 20 elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
1 kg sugar
Wash the elderflower heads to remove any insects.
Then place them in a large bowl together with the grated zest of the lemons. (Reserve the lemons as you will need to use their juice later.)
Pour 1.5 litres of boiling water over the elderflowers and lemon zest. Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
The next day, strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin or kitchen paper, into a large saucepan.
Add the sugar and the juice of the lemons to the infused liquid and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, simmer more rapidly for around 5 minutes until the liquid has thickened slightly.
Transfer the cordial into sterilised bottles or jars. (There are various ways of sterilising bottles and jars. I think the easiest is to wash in soapy water and then put in an oven at 120 C for 15 minutes).
Once bottled, the cordial will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Although the preparation time is only 15 minutes, you do need to leave the mixture to infuse overnight (see step 3).
This is a companion to the recipe for Rhubarb Gin and offers an alternative for those who do not like gin or who do not drink alcohol. Children love it too although sometimes more when they are not told that it has rhubarb in it! There are many recipes for Rhubarb Cordial but this is the very simplest and requires minimal skill or time to make although you do need to leave it overnight before you can enjoy it. It is very versatile and can be used to make non-alcoholic drinks or used as a flavouring in alcoholic cocktails. It can also be used as a flavouring in cooking when making cakes and puddings. As with the Rhubarb Gin, you can add additional flavours to your taste – some are suggested in the recipe but feel free to improvise!
Sweet and zesty Rhubarb Cordial is an easy way of capturing the flavour of rhubarb for use in drinks and food recipes.
1 kg rhubarb stalks
600 g caster sugar
1 litre of water
Juice of 1 lemon
If you wish to try different flavours you could add one of the following additions: 1 vanilla pod or other spices (cardamon and star anise go well with rhubarb) or 5 slices of fresh root ginger
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into 3 cm pieces.
Put the rhubarb pieces, sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft.
Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Strain the mushy juices through a muslin-lined funnel into a bowl or jug. It takes a while for the juice to filter through and the process can be done overnight in your fridge.
The juice that has filtered through the funnel is your Rhubarb Cordial and is ready to use.
The Rhubarb Cordial will keep in a sterilised bottle in your fridge for around a month. Alternatively, you can freeze it – best to do this in ice-cube trays – and it will keep for up to six months.
To sterilise your bottle, you can wash in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly and then dry off for around 15 minutes in an oven set to 140C/120C fan/gas 1.
Rhubarb Cordial is very versatile and can be combined with soda or tonic to make a non-alcoholic drink or added to a glass of prosecco or added to gin or vodka as a flavouring for cocktails. It can also be poured over vanilla ice-cream to make a quick pudding and used as a culinary ingredient to add flavour.