Elderflower cordial

Elderflower cordial

The New Nordic
1.5 litres
Simon Bajada

At Nordic latitudes, the seasons are intense. Those who live in this hard and ever-changing landscape learn to recognise the early clues that hint at the warmer weather and to know what grows when and where so as not to miss out. This far north, elderflowers can bloom for as little as two short weeks in late spring, making them all the more special and worthy of being celebrated. Elsewhere in the world they can flower well into June. This delicious cordial can be diluted with sparkling or still mineral water or used to flavour sweet dishes, such as sorbets, creams and cakes. And it stores very well. It is well worth hunting down a supply and climbing a ladder into the trees.

Both the flowers and berries have a wide array of culinary uses. The berries, which come later in the year, are poisonous if eaten raw (as are the roots, bark and leaves) but they can be cooked into syrups or jams. The flowers can also be covered in batter and made into fritters, or they can be dried to make tea. If you’re not certain of what is edible and what is not, make sure you take someone with you who knows.

Flavoured waters are very popular during the summer months in Nordic countries. Slices of lemon, orange, cucumber or fresh berries and herbs are the most common flavourings. I suggest serving this elderflower cordial with a slice of lemon or a few ribbons of cucumber.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg caster sugar
1.5 litres boiling water
4 lemons, washed
55g citric acid
30 large elderflower flower heads, shaken to remove any insects


  1. Place the sugar in a large saucepan, stockpot or non-metallic bowl. Pour the boiling water over the top and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. Finely grate the zest of the lemons into the sugar water, then thickly slice the lemons and add them as well.
  3. Stir in the citric acid, then submerge the flower heads in the mixture and stir again. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to steep for 48 hours at room temperature.
  4. Sterilise a couple of 750 ml glass bottles, by washing them thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinsing well, then putting them on a baking tray in a low oven (120°C) for 20 minutes. Leave to cool.
  5. Strain the cordial through some fine muslin (cheesecloth) into a clean bowl. Using a funnel, pour the strained liquid into sterilised bottles then seal and store in a cool, dark place (not the refrigerator). You can drink it straightaway and it will keep for a few weeks. Alternatively, freeze in plastic bottles for up to a year. Depending on how sweet your tooth is and the intensity of the flowers, I recommend diluting it 1 part cordial to 4 parts water.
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