Homemade elderflower syrup or catching the summer flavors in a bottle: this cordial is sweet, lemony, and more aromatic than any other syrup I know.
You will not believe how easy it is to make elderflower syrup yourself. All you need are a bunch of elderflowers, lemons, citric acid, sugar, and water.
And if you would like something stronger, you could try making elderflower gin.
I wasn’t sure about the right way of spelling sirup. Either sirup or syrup. So I googled it and found this: Syrup is an alternative form of sirup. I chose syrup now because after looking here and there, I feel that most people use the form “syrup”.
What are elderflowers?
Elderflowers are the blossoms of the elder tree, also known as Sambucus nigra, Black Elder, Ellhorn, Pipe tree, Bore tree, Eller, and Holler.
The elder trees are small hedgerow trees and their blossoms – the elderflowers – are creamy colored, have a heavenly scent, and can be picked in June. I love the smell of the hedges every early summer and the look of these beautiful flowers.
What to do with elderflowers?
My great-grandmother used to make elderflower juice or Non-Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne when I was little, a fizzy drink made with elderflowers, lemons, sugar, and water. We used to drink that really really cold on hot summer days and it was amazing for us children, especially during those days in the communist times of Romania, when we didn't have access to juices or soft drinks or stuff like that. And as a child one really loves stuff like that. 🙂
Or you can make syrup or cordial. Or Elderflower Tea.
Difference between elderflower and cordial?
I used to think there was a difference between the syrup and the cordial, I always assumed that something called cordial must contain alcohol.
Turns out that that is not the case with elderflower cordial. This one is pretty much the same thing as the syrup, which is sweetened extract, so the two products or terms can be used interchangeably.
If you are looking for something with alcohol, the product will probably be called Elderflower Liqueur, just check the list of ingredients on the bottle, it is the best way of making sure of what you are buying.
Otherwise, today's recipe is the same for both elderflower syrup or cordial.
How to pick elderflowers?
- Their season is sometime in June. It is a short period of time, so make sure you don't miss it.
- Pick large, unblemished flowers. They should be fully opened and very fragrant when ready to pick. Snap the elderflowers underneath the head of the flower where all the small stems meet the large stem.
- Pick only a few from each tree, the berries that develop later can also be used later in autumn and are also important for insects and birds.
- The most important thing should be that you find a hedgerow that is not close to the road, I always pick the elderflowers in the fields.
- Give them a good shake to make sure that any small insects are removed.
- I don't wash them, as I've said I pick them in places where there is absolutely no traffic. But if you would like to wash them anyway, then give them just a very very brief rinse in running cold water. However, be aware that washing the elderflowers would remove the pollen and much of the flavor.
- Pick the flowers preferably on a dry sunny day, they should not be wet from the rain. Bring them home and use them immediately, they will become limp and lose flavor quickly.
How to make elderflower syrup?
- Make sure you use organic, unwaxed lemons, which should be washed with hot water before you use them.
- Before straining the liquid, give the lemon slices a good squeeze, so that their juice remains in the syrup.
- Granulated food-grade citric acid is very cheap and can be bought in just about any supermarket in Germany. If you cannot find it there, then you should definitely be able to find it in a pharmacy/drugstore. Make sure it is food-grade.
- Citric acid not only adds taste, but it also helps preserving the syrup.
- There is a lot of sugar in the recipe, I know, but this is a syrup which should always be topped with lots of water before you drink it.
- I usually mix one part syrup for 3-4 parts water, but that's according to taste. My kids like it sweeter, I like it less sweet.
- And I always add fresh lemon juice to the glass when we are drinking, it makes the drink even better.
- Making this elderflower syrup or elderflower cordial is very easy, but you need a little time as it needs to be left alone for 1 or 2 days.
- I usually place all the ingredients in my largest glass bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and bring the bowl in the cellar.
- If you don't have a cellar, any darker cooler place would do. If the weather is very warm, I only let the elderflowers in the water for about 24 hours, if the weather is not that hot you can leave them for 36 hours.
- After this time, strain the liquid through a very fine sieve. If the sieve you have is not that fine, line it with a clean muslin cloth. There should be no impurities left in the liquid.
- Pour the liquid into a clean pot, add the sugar and bring to a boil while stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 3-4 minutes.
- Pour the elderflower syrup immediately into sterilized and still warm bottles.
- The cordial is quite thick and sweet, so a little goes a long way.
- You can pour just a little bit of it in a glass and fill the rest with sparkling water and ice. Don't forget to squeeze extra lemon or lime juice in the glass, it will give it an extra lemony tanginess, which I find great.
- The syrup keeps very well and you can use it the year-round either as mentioned above or as a flavoring for sparkling wine, gin, and tonic or other drinks.
- You can use it as a sweetening or flavoring agent to make desserts or you can pour a little of it on your pancakes or ice cream.
- You can use the elderflower syrup or cordial in baking to moisten cake bases before you fill them, you can flavor cake fillings with it, you can make elderflower ice cream or sorbet, you can even use a little of the syrup to flavor and lightly sweeten salad dressings.
How to keep?
- The recipe can be easily doubled or tripled, I always do that, I don't really bother for just 1 liter.
- It keeps very well, I still had a little bottle I've made last year and which I opened recently. It was perfect.
- Once you open a bottle, keep it in the refrigerator and consume it as soon as possible.
Elderflower Syrup (Homemade Elderflower Cordial)
- 20 large elderflowers about, Notes 1 and 2
- 3 organic lemons
- 4 ¼ cups water 1 liter/ 34 fl.oz
- 1 ½ teaspoon granulated food-grade citric acid
- 5 cups granulated sugar 1 kg/ 35 oz
- Prepare elderflowers: Shake the freshly picked elderflower to remove any small insects that might be crawling around. If you want to wash them, rinse them very briefly in cold running water. However, be aware that washing the elderflowers would remove the pollen and much of the flavor. Place the flowers into a large glass bowl.
- Steep: Cut the lemons into thick slices. Add them to the bowl, add the water, cover and leave for 24 to 36 hours in a cool, dark place. A cool cellar would be best. If the weather is very warm 24 hours should be enough; if the weather is not that hot you can leave the syrup for up to 36 hours.
- Strain: Squeeze the lemon slices into the syrup and then strain the liquid through a very fine sieve into a pot (line the sieve with a clean muslin cloth, if the sieve is not that fine, there should be no impurities left in the liquid).
- Boil syrup: Add the citric acid and the sugar. Bring to boil while stirring well to dissolve the sugar. When it starts boiling, boil for 5 minutes.
- Bottle: Pour immediately into sterilized and still warm bottles. Screw the cap on the bottle firmly.
- Store in a cool, dark place. The elderflower syrup or cordial will keep for at least 6 months, probably longer. After opening a bottle, store it in the refrigerator and consume as soon as possible.
- The recipe makes about 1500 ml/ 50 fl.oz/ 6 ½ cups syrup. To make a refreshing drink, mix about 50 ml/ scant ¼ cup with about 250 ml/ 1 cup tab or sparkling water, about 1 part syrup and 5 parts water, to taste.
- A large elderflower should be about as large as your hand when you spread the fingers lightly. If they are smaller, use more elderflowers. Always pick the elderflowers in the fields or gardens, places where there is no car traffic.
Rachel @ Simple Seasonal says
What a beautiful recipe and I loved the story about your childhood!
Thank you, Rachel. 🙂
Wish I had had this recipe 40 years ago when I lived in Louisiana. our backyard was surrounded by elderberry and it was beautiful when it was in bloom, and lots of blooms there were. In the New Mexico climate elder berry doesn't grow. That's a shame because I would love to taste this syrup. Wonderful little recipe Adina.
here in Slovenia we differ from syrup and cordial. I don’t know the exact English name, but there are two different things. One is syrup as you recipe, and the other is made with vinegar, elderflower, less sugar and lemon. It’s like Schweppes. And you don’t mix it with water. It also remind me on hot summer days, when my granny made it. Maybe that was the same you mention it. It’s called Holundersekt in German.
Enjoy your summer.
Hi Vesna. It could be the same, although I don't remember the use of vinegar. But it was definitely like Sekt, not alcoholic, but bubbly. Enjoy the summer too.