June is in bloom! I am overwhelmed by what hedgerows and natural surroundings have to offer at the moment, but by far one of the most popular recipes of the month, is of course, elderflower cordial.

With every year that goes past, I learn more about the presence of botanical beings that surround us, where they pop up and at what time, which I find really empowering! As some of you may know, I am also an ethical taxidermist and manage taxidermyco.uk and it’s part of my nature to scour the roads for furry or feathered souls that have met their untimely fate with traffic, whenever I happen to be travelling.

However, I now find myself scanning the hedgerows equally as much for medicinal herbs and plants – nothing escapes my vulturous gaze!

This year, I returned to my faithful patch of elder trees that I harvested elderberry from, for the last couple of years, in which I made an incredible concoction (recipe here) that helps fight flu and colds over the winter period. Sadly, I ran out just in time as I happened to get the dreaded ‘lurgee’ at the beginning of June – typical!

I absolutely love this hedgerow plant for it’s medicinal properties – it has even scientifically been proven to prevent and minimise the effects of influenza, colds and flu by trapping it in the nasal/respiratory areas, literally stopping the virus dead in it’s tracks, how amazing is that?!

Basket of naturally foraged elderflowers to make Elderflower Cordial With

There’s plenty of documentation and ‘science stuff’ online if you’d like to research further, which gives credence to this powerful, protective plant, such as this snippet from science daily.com

“It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells”

University of Sydney, 2019

Back to elderflowers now though, and how you can make yourself some delicious, fragrant cordial.

There are so many recipes online, such as this one that I recommend, but the one I follow and have adapted is from the brilliant book, Hedgerow Medicine by – my hedgerow bible.

Some crucial tips before we begin;

Make sure you pick the elderflowers early in the morning on a dry sunny day, preferably in a quiet area away from roads (higher up the better as eliminates risk of dog pee!). They should smell lemony fresh.

They are generally best the first couple of week in June. If it gets too hot, they spoil quickly and turn brown.

Positive ID is also key – there are lots of small white flowers around this time of year and I have heard of people being fooled by rowan tree blossom, which are similar looking to elderflower in nature.

DO make sure to only use the flowers and to get rid of as much stalk as you can – although generally safe, the stalks, leaves and rest of the plant contain cyanide and can be toxic if consumed. (this is why the leaves can be used as an insect repellent infused in water!)

It’s always best to try a small portion of your harvest if it’s your first time trying it, to determine wether or not you have any kind of reaction. Safety is paramount! With that being said, let’s hop to it!

Things you will need;

  • 20 heads of Fresh Elderflowers
  • 1.5 Litres of Water
  • Large Saucepan
  • Muslin, cheese cloth or jam straining bag
  • Swing Top Bottles
  • 40g Citric Acid
  • Lemon & Orange
  • 1kg Caster Sugar

Easy Elderflower Cordial Recipe

  1. Lay your freshly harvested elderflowers outside for an hour, either on a baking sheet or tea towel, to let any insects caught up in the blossoms to escape.
  2. Use a fork to remove the flowers from their green stalks/umbels and pop them in to the saucepan, along with chopped lemon and/or orange.
  3. Pour the water over the flowers and bring to a gentle boil, then take off the heat and let it sit overnight to infuse. (I recommend placing a lid over the saucepan at this point as the smell can be quite punchy!)
  4. In the morning, make sure the glass bottles you are using are sterilised, by either filling them with boiling water, or putting them in the oven at 130°C for thirty minutes, (if they don’t have plastic lids of course!!!)
  5. Strain the elderflower liquid through a piece of muslin, jam strainer bag or cheesecloth and return to the saucepan, along with the citric acid and sugar.
  6. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar in the process, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Whilst still hot, pour the mixture into your sterilised bottles using a funnel if you have one, seal and allow to cool.
  8. Enjoy the fruits of your labour for up to 6 months. I personally love it paired with ice and sparkling water on a hot summers day, but it is also delicious paired with Prosecco, Champagne, Lemonade or other drinks of your choice.