Making your own elderflower cordial is one of the easiest things you can do in the summer, and children love getting involved with the picking, sorting and preparation so it is a very good opportunity to teach them something they will enjoy for many years to come.
It is preferable not to soak the flower heads, just give them a good shake outside if they have lots of insects hiding within. If you want to wash the flowers, just plunge them into cold water very quickly, give them a quick rinse so that insects float off, and take them out of the water so as not to dilute the flavour and fragrance.
Citric acid can be easily bought at any chemist. It serves to prevent your cordial going mouldy. If you have a small family decant your cordial into smaller bottles, so as to allow minimum exposure to air. Large bottles of cordial go off very quickly, if not consumed. I store my elderflower cordial in the fridge.
Ingredients to make 3 litres
20 elderflower heads in flower.
zest and juice of 2 oranges
zest and juice of 2 lemons
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 kg. of caster sugar
80g. citric acid (available from Boots the Chemist)
1.5 litres of water, boiled, then left to cool.
1. Firstly, make sure you boil the water, then leave it to cool. Trim the flower heads, removing as much of the stalk as possible. Shake the flowers well, so all the insects drop out. Put the flowers in a very large bowl or saucepan.
2. In another big saucepan, add the sugar to the water, bring to the boil and dissolve all the sugar by stirring.
3. Remove the zest from the oranges, lemons and limes (no pith, as this is very bitter), and add to the elderflower bowl. Add the fruit juices to the elderflowers and zests.
4. Pour the hot sugar syrup over the flower heads, and mix it all very well. Stir in the citric acid. Cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel, and leave the liquid to infuse for a whole 24 hours at room temperature.
5. The following day, strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin cloth. Pour the cordial through a funnel into clean bottles that have screw top lids. Store in the fridge. Dilute with water to taste, with either tap or fizzy water.