In Ireland we haven’t had as much sun as we’ve hoped for by now, mid-June. That means many flowers only started blooming a little bit later. This includes the flowers on the Elder tree. And this is important because elderflower cordial is part of our summer. Luckily the flowers are in full bloom now and it is time to make cordial using this recipe.
The Elder tree grows in many countries across the world including Ireland, France, Germany, the UK, the US, Canada and more. They usually grow in woodlands, parks, gardens, by the roadside, hedgerows and so forth.
Since we’ve been living in Ireland I’ve had to adapt to many things here. But, I also learnt many new things and one of them is to make elderflower cordial.
The Elder and the myths
The Elder is a small tree native to the green Island and grows commonly throughout the countryside. The large white flower consists of tiny little flowers which is very fragrant. It grows at a fast rate and grows wild within hedgerows, scrub, wasteland and woodland edges. From the white flowers, which only blossoms for six weeks in the summer, you can make the most delicious cordial. You can also make other delectable things with the elderflower, like wine, but I’ve only tried the cordial.
Also there are many other flowers which bloom at the same time and can be mistaken for elderflower, because they look so similar. These include cow parsley, cowbane, hemlock, hawthorn and more. Have a look at The Irish Kitchen where they describe the flowers that are definitely not elderflower and indeed, some can actually harm you.
Interesting, when I looked for a recipe for the cordial, I came upon some myths surrounding the Elder tree. Here are some:
- Many people believe that Elder is the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Jesus;
- To fell an Elder tree without suitable protection could free a spirit called the Elder Mother to take her revenge;
- The elderflower was said to be a protection against witches and a knotted twig kept in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism.
Elderflower, because of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, is apparently also used in traditional medicine all over the world. The elderflower cordial and wines are also high in vitamins A, B and C. And, because of its antibacterial and antiviral properties it may help alleviate some allergies, can help clear colds and throat trouble. Quite many benefits in those small sweet flowers.
Recipe for cordial
Here is the recipe I found some years ago and have used ever since.
20 heads of elderflower
1.8kg sugar (granulated or caster sugar)
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid
- Shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects and place in a large bowl.
- Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off in wide strips and toss into the bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons, discard the ends, and add the slices to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup and stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Next day: Strain cordial through a sieve lined with muslin and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles. Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use.
This cordial is such a refreshing and versatile drink. You can mix it with most fizzy waters, with still water, lots of ice and also with gin and perhaps cocktails, although I haven’t tried that yet.
Have a sunny day!