This versatile simple syrup adds a delicate floral flavor to drinks and foods. Here’s the recipe:
Quantity: Makes about 4 cups (1 quart / 1 liter)
5 to 6 cups of fresh elderflowers (about 5 oz / 140 g), removed from their stems and gently packed OR 1 heaping cup dried elderflower (about 1 oz / 30 g) (1)
2 cups water (16 oz / 450 g)
2 cups sugar (14 oz / 400 g) OR 1 3/4 cups honey (21 oz / 600 g)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon citric acid powder or more to taste (2)
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste (3)
Optional: Zest from 1/2 to 1 lemon
In a 3 quart stainless steel or enameled pan, bring the water to a full boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the citric acid, lemon juice, and optional lemon zest. Syrup will foam up.
Cover the pan and let the syrup cool until the pan is pleasantly warm to the touch — less than 100 degrees F. Do not mix elderflowers with hot syrup because the heat will alter their flavor.
Put the flowers in a 1 1/2 or 2 quart (1 1/2 to 2 liter) container with a wide mouth and a tight-fitting lid (a 2-quart canning jar works well). Slowly pour the syrup over the flowers. Stir often to eliminate air bubbles and thoroughly mix the syrup with the flowers.
Cap the container, store in the refrigerator, and let the flowers infuse for 2-3 days. Gently mix the flowers and syrup once or twice a day.
When the infusion is done, sanitize one 32-ounce (1 quart, 1 liter) canning jar or 2 or 3 smaller jars with a total of 32 ounces of capacity by washing the jars in the dishwasher on a normal or sanitizing cleaning cycle. An alternative method to sanitize the jars is to submerge them for about 1 minute in a pot of water at a full rolling boil. Leave the jars in the dishwasher or hot water until you are ready to fill them.
Pour the syrup and flowers through a wire-mesh strainer. Press the flowers to get as much syrup as possible. Discard the flowers.
Pour the syrup into the sanitized jars, seal securely, and refrigerate or freeze.
If made with the citric acid and lemon juice as called for in the recipe and kept refrigerated in unopened, sanitized jars, the syrup will likely keep for up to 4 weeks. After a jar is opened, keep refrigerated and use the syrup within 1 or 2 weeks. I do not recommend canning this syrup — the recipe has not been tested for safety.
The cordial will be cloudy yellow from the pollen in the flowers. Before use, shake or stir the cordial to mix the pollen back into the liquid.
If you want a perfectly clear cordial, allow the pollen to settle and then slowly pour the clear liquid off the top. Without the pollen, the floral aroma and taste will not be quite as strong.
Use elderflower cordial in place of regular simple syrup when making mixed drinks. Mix it with club soda and ice for an elder flower spritzer. Use it to sweeten hot or iced tea or as a flavoring in frostings or icings for cakes.
(1) This cordial is best made from freshly picked flowers. If using dried flowers, use flowers with a pleasant floral aroma. Avoid flowers with a dusty or toasted odor.
(2) Find citric acid in the canning section at your local grocery or hardware store. Lemon juice and/or citric acid powder adds flavor and, if used in the recommended amounts or more, these acids will also help increase the shelf life. Do not use ascorbic acid (sometimes sold as “Fruit Fresh”) in place of citric acid or lemon juice.
(3) If you do not have citric acid, double the amount of lemon juice.