Elderflower syrup

This is my first time of making something "traditional" and authentically british for this summer so to speak, especially by foraging for the main ingredient. Inspired by a friend who is an expert, I attempted my very own sugary elderflower cordial using the freshest of the elderflower florets from the woods by my house. I must say the recipe and the whole procedure turned out to be much easier than I imagined. 

However, it was an absolute impromptu decision that I made while taking a walk in the woods because of which I had to make do with the ingredients already available at home. Now, for a traditional cordial, you would need citrus, water, sugar, lots and lots of sugar, and citric acid as preservatives. As it turns out, I did have most of the necessary ingredients already available i.e. citrus, water and sugar. The only thing missing was the citric acid. Besides, I do live in the country side, a while away from local amenities, making a run to the local chemist for some citric acid is a little more challenging on a lazy sunday afternoon...

To start with, first and foremost thing to do is to identify the plant... Elderberry or Elder plants are generally deciduous shrubs that bear lacy white clusters of florets that are used for making the cordial or syrup. Their elder berries are also used to make various relishes, pies and other sweet items. There can be many trees in the wild that can have similar appearance to an elderflower tree such as ground elder, cow parsley, yarrow, etc. So, please try and find the correct tree and pick the right flowers. Although, if you are aware of the tree then it shouldn't be a problem to spot them right away. A bit of warning, folks with severe case of hay fever should rather avoid picking the flowers as even a gentle shaking of the flowers causes a large amount of pollens (and other tiny things on the tree), to scatter in the air.

Now, elderflowers are known to have many health benefits such as traditionally in Europe it was and still is used as antiseptics and anti-inflammatories. They are also widely used for respiratory illnesses, flu and for relieving sore throats and tonsillitis. Read more here. They are also quite rich in antioxidants, so, even more incentives to make them syrups :)

Time to prepare the flower heads... Now, whatever you do,


You want to retain the pollens as much as possible as they are the ones that majorly contribute to the flavour and the aroma. However, do watch out for tiny bugs as they enjoy the fragrant floral nibbles. I would suggest that you leave the flowers on a bowl or basket for a bit, the insects crawl out slowly but surely. Not sure if shaking the flower is a good idea since you shake off a lot of the pollen. Just be patient I guess... 


For 750ml of water, you would need:

1. 10-12 elderflower heads
2. 600-900 gm of sugar (depending on the level of sweetness and viscousness you desire, more the sugar, more viscous it would be)
3. 2 large lemons with rind
4. 1 orange with rind

If you want to add citric acid as preservatives (that can be bought at the local chemist) then about 40 gm should do it.


1. Snip the florets off the flower head making sure there are no bugs in the mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. Boil the water and the sugar in a sauce pan in medium heat until the sugar completely dissolved. Stir it occasionally so that the sugar does not stick to the bottom and caramelise. Once dissolved, bring the syrup to boil. Throw in the rind of the citruses while the syrup boils. I used 1 lemon and 1 clementine for their rinds. You could also add juice of one whole lemon at this stage is you want.

3. Slice the lemons and the clementine or orange (whichever you use) and add to the flowers.

4. Once the syrup is boiling, take it off the stove and while still hot, pour it over the flower + citrus mixture, stir and cover. This would also be the stage where you would add the citric acid. Leave for at least 24 hours for proper infusion.

 5. Sieve the concoction with a fine cloth like cheesecloth or tea towel and pour into a well sterilised bottle and store in the fridge. You can either drink it straight away or chilled like squash, with water, lemonade, soda or even gin.

Now enjoy.... 

Cheers to the summer :)