Elderflower Power

Around here, the elder is in full flower and looking across the fields, it’s easy to spot the cream coloured blobs of saucer shaped flowers. The flowers need to be picked when they’re still creamy coloured; you should leave them once they’ve turned white or started to brown. I once read that they harbour fewer insects if picked early in the day, but I’m not sure if that’s true.

If you have an elder growing near you, arm yourself with a pair of scissors and cut some before it disappears. You need to deal with the flowers as soon as you get home as they don’t keep well and even left overnight will take on a decidedly unappealing smell.

Here’s some ideas for using your freshly cut elderflowers.

Elderflower Fizz

Drink this fresh as a cordial or leave it for two or three weeks for the wild yeasts to gently ferment in the bottle giving you a fizzy drink. The longer it’s kept, the drier and more alcoholic (though it never gets too strong) it becomes so that by October it’s usually too dry for me. That said, I once found a bottle in the spring time that we drank. Fearing it might be a bit lively, we took it outside to open and two thirds of the bottle sprayed across the grass.

Read the recipe for Elderflower Fizz >>

elderflower and rose

Elderflower & Rose Cordial

I’m not a great fan of the colour pink but in summer there’s something very seductive about a pale pink drink, particularly with bubbles gently rising to the top. An elder bush has insinuated itself amongst the roses, making a pretty combination of creamy white elder flowers, pink roses and green foliage and while I was picking elderflowers, it struck me that not only would a combination of elderflower and rose make a pretty pink drink, but it would taste good too.

Rose and Elderflower Cordial

rose and elderflower cordial

25 elder flower heads
4 rose heads – choose a fragrant deep coloured variety
2 lemons
750g granulated sugar
25g citric acid
1 litre cold water

When you’re picking elder flowers, choose the creamy pollen laden ones rather than any that are turning brown. Don’t wash them but shake off any insects and then cut off the big stems, letting the florets fall into a large bowl. Snip off the white part of the rose petals as it’s supposed to be bitter and add the shredded rose petals to the bowl. I find it easiest to hold the rose by the stem and just snip the petals into strips, working my way around the edge until I reach the middle. Much easier than trying to snip individual petals.

Remove the lemon peel with a potato peeler and add to the bowl, together with the juice of the lemons.

Now tip in the sugar, citric acid and cold water and give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar. You might need to come back after half an hour and give it another stir.

Cover and leave for 24 hours in the cool. You can leave it for another day, but don’t be tempted to leave it too long as mould will start to grow on the elderflowers. I speak from experience.

Strain and bottle. Dilute with still or sparkling water.

Elderflower Creams

A richer version of Elderflower Milk Jelly. Recently I made these in small metal pudding tins and unmoulded them to serve (as you would with panna cotta). Unfortunately, I hadn’t been very diligent removing all the tiny insects so it looked as though I’d flavoured the creams with a vanilla pod and scraped out the seeds. They tasted fine.

Elderflower Creams

300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
6 heads elderflowers snipped from the main stem
Leaf gelatine – enough to set 600ml
45g caster sugar

Pour about 6 tablespoons of milk into a bowl, snip the gelatine into pieces and add to the milk and leave to soak.

Put the remaining milk into a saucepan with the cream and elderflower heads and heat gently. When the cream and milk reach simmering point, remove the pan from the heat and place the bowl containing the gelatine on top of the saucepan for five minutes. The elderflowers will continue to infuse the creamy milk with their flavour and the heat will dissolve the gelatine in the bowl above.

After five minutes, strain the creamy milk into a jug, discard the elderflowers and stir in the sugar. Stir the gelatine and milk mixture into the elderflower infused cream and and pour into six small ramekins.

Leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours.


Gooseberry and elderflower fool

Simmer 500g gooseberries with 5 large heads of elder flowers 4 tablespoons of sugar and a spoonful of water for ten minutes until the gooseberries start to burst. Leave until cold and then pick out the elderflowers. Lightly mash the gooseberries with a fork, fold in 300ml of softly whipped cream and serve.

Elderflower Infused Water

Delightful as cordials are, I can’t drink them all day. In summer I like to keep a jug of water in the fridge because otherwise I waste too much water waiting for the tap to run cold and these Infused Waters are really just a step up from a slice of lemon floating in the jug. Certainly if you’re the driver for the evening, they beat the gloom of glass after glass of plain water or worse still, sweet gloopy UHT orange juice.

Just add a couple of elderflower heads with a slice or two of lemon to a jug of water and chill. Elderflower, Rose & Lime also works well. I keep the jug in the fridge and top up with water as I use it during the day.

Have a good weekend.



30 thoughts on “Elderflower Power

  1. Lovely post and great tips for newbies Anne, I am going to try making some Elderflower cordial. We seem to have masses of Elderflowers this year. Just looked up where to buy Citric Acid and see Lakelands or Amazon, where do you buy yours from?

    1. I buy citric acid from the local chemist, though have to answer questions about why I want it (ie I’m not a druggie). Shops that sell home wine and beer making kit usually stock citric acid. The seemingly great value bulk bags you can buy on the internet are usually for making bath bombs and descaling kettles rather than culinary use.

  2. Got to try these ideas while the elderflowers are still out in force. A lot got battered down by the rain after I’d picked last week’s batch but I think there is now a new wave of them so elderflower creams and elderflower fizz, here we come! Can I use white wine vinegar in the fizz? Hope this will work as I have a large bottle of that and no cider vinegar. Have a lovely & flower-filled weekend Anne. E x

  3. Your comment about the Elderflower Creams made me smile. We call it ‘added nutrition’ whenever that happens here. Beautiful photos and lovely recipes Anne. I’ve got some elderflowers steeping with lemons and limes right now as that’s what I had to hand. I think the colour of your cordial with roses will be gorgeous. If I can find some more bottles, I’ll be giving that a go.

    1. Adding limes sounds a good idea – I seem to remember trying a recipe that added oranges too or maybe like you, that’s what I had to hand. Must see if I can dig out the recipe as we’ve still got plenty of elderflowers.

  4. I love elderflowers and am really missing the big elder plant we had in our old garden. You’re right about the colour of the rose and elderflower cordial – it looks very appetising, perfect for a long, cool drink on a warm summer’s evening (assuming we’re going to get any warm summer’s evenings this year, no sign of them yet…)

  5. I also love elderflowers dried – I added some to a pumpkin soup I made once (well I steeped the elderflowers in hot water and added elderflower tea to the soup) it was very nice indeed – sadly I have missed the season AGAIN – there is another recipe here – where you wash and dry the elderflowers, dip them in a pancake batter and then fry them and add some sugar – very nice indeed, an old granny recipe

    1. I’d never thought about adding elderflowers to soup – sounds interesting. For years I avoided making elderflower fritters as it seemed a lot of faff to dip a flower in batter and fry it but you’re right – they’re surprisingly good. Maybe pudding tonight now you’ve reminded me …

      1. elderflower fritters 🙂 – thats what they are called, I have never made them, also thought too much effort, however, on the whole I think they are tasty! In soup they are gorgeous, surprisingly so, as long as you have making something delicate. Sadly I cannot make the cordial you recommend as i missed the season..

  6. I am so jealous because we don’t have elderberries and gooseberries here. Your recipes look great and I would love to try them all. Happy eating and drinking.

    1. I’ve seen a recipe for using elder in the Local is Lovely book, so they must grow somewhere in Australia – perhaps somewhere a little more forgiving than where you are.

  7. I would love to try some of these. No access to elderflowers or gooseberries here, though my mother picked gooseberries for tarts when I was a child and I believe we made elderberry wine a couple years, but the cordial sounds much less troublesome!

    1. I guess different colours appeal more at different times of the year. It’s easy to tell which season I decorated different rooms in the house by the colours I’ve chosen.

  8. I’ve never seen elderflowers in our part of the world, though perhaps I should google that to confirm… we can buy elderflower cordial in certain specialty delis, which is lovely, but would be fabulous to make to my own one day and try your pannacotta – sounds like it would have a lovely subtle flavour.
    Many thanks Anne for the mention of TDPC… publishing of the winter menu has just begun too! Cheers, Margot

  9. my first experience of eating elderflowers was about (gosh!) 20 years ago when I was backpacking thru the UK. I had elderflowers ice cream, and it was so pretty! that’s the best way I could describe the florally flavour. since moving to Tassie, i’ve discovered the commercially available elderflower cordials and fizzy drinks we have here. but that ice cream – sigh.

    1. Elderflower ice cream sounds divine. I’m sure you could recreate it using cordial, but sometimes I think it’s best to just keep the memory.

  10. I’m not sure that we have elderflowers around here but they certainly are very pretty – and I love that photo you have of the elderflowers with the rose petals.
    These drinks sound very nice – good thing you thought to take that bottle outside to open.

    1. I’ve been caught out by opening old bottles inside. One bottle of cider sprayed an entire kitchen wall and fizzed over the floor too. I don’t think any of it went into the waiting glass.

      1. That sounds like when I dropped a 2 liter bottle of warm coke on my kitchen floor. The thing went off like a bomb & was spinning around spraying everything while I was trying to grab it. What a mess!

  11. The cordial looks fabulous with the addition of the rose petals Anne, and I can just imagine how great it tastes.

  12. I’m afraid I know very little about Elderflowers and if they are native to my area, have never recognized them. The closest I’ve come is seeing a photo on a box of tea. How wonderful to spot these short lived gems, capture them at the right time and make something so special. Is it possible to describe the taste or do they mostly impart just a fragrance?

    1. I’m useless at describing taste and my best description is that the cordial tastes florally. I’m not sure how much is fragrance and how much taste – they’re hard to separate sometimes aren’t they?

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