baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

elderflower cordial

Recipe: elderflower cordial

It’s been a busy week of hosting an astrophysics retreat…

dinner and science!

setting the table at our house

welcoming my parents back to Boulder for the summer…

mom and dad in colorado

and keeping tabs on the wildfires along the front range as well as spot fires popping up in our local area.

our daily dose of lightning

Never a dull moment. Actually, a dull moment wouldn’t be so bad. Today’s recipe is a good “back to Earth” kind of recipe. Just what I need right now. Remember when my friend, Wendy, took me foraging? I picked a small batch of elderflowers because I love anything elderflower. Truth? When I go to IKEA, I like those little elderflower juice boxes. I’m guessing most of the elderflowers are gone now and in the process of becoming elderberries, but come spring next year – you must do this elderflower cordial, because it rocks multiple worlds.

elderflower blossoms

wendy forages

There are some basic rules to foraging elderflowers. First off, don’t mistake poison hemlock for elderflowers, because that could end badly – and by badly, I mean death. Do a Google Image search on poison hemlock and learn how to identify both plants. Second, avoid bushes or shrubs that have been sprayed with chemicals. Third, only pick flowers that are fully open, but not past prime (i.e. brown). Fourth, don’t pick a bush clean because not only is that a jerk thing to do, but you will prevent the fruits from forming later. You can find some good information from the pros here on Wendy’s site and here on Hank Shaw’s site. We harvested from several different bushes.

my loot, about 25 stems

cream-colored blossoms

pluck pluck pluck

The recipe is pretty simple although the task of de-stemming the flower buds is a tedious pain in the hoohoo. We de-stem the flowers because the stems are toxic. A little stem won’t hurt you (so I’ve read), but you really want to remove as much as possible. The flowers come off with a gentle pull (I found the older the flower, the easier to remove), but there are a gazillion of these little white blossoms. Running a stem between my fingertips helped to remove a decent percentage of them, but the more stubborn ones required actually plucking. It’s worth the effort.

the blossoms, de-stemmed

sugar, water, lemon, and elderflowers

I had about 25 stems which yielded a cup and a half of flowers. That was enough to make a half batch of the recipe that Wendy emailed me. I got the sugar syrup started and then let the flowers steep for a few days while I scrounged around town for a bottle.

sugar and water

stir in the flowers

after 2 days

After the syrup has sat for 2-4 days, heat it up to a boil over the stove. Remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. I think the acid is added to keep it from fermenting (according to Hank), especially if you don’t keep it cold. Strain out the blossoms with a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Put it in a bottle and keep it chilled.

lemon juice


bottle it up

The cordial has a delicate floral note that I am a little addicted to. It tastes like a spring garden to me, the aroma bringing me back to that sunny day when Wendy and I geeked out over plant talk and spotted elderflower bushes everywhere we went. I find it especially refreshing with seltzer water over ice, but it’s great in cocktails too.

cooling off with a little elderflower spritzer

Edlerflower Cordial
[print recipe]
from Wendy of Hunger and Thirst

3 cups stripped elderflowers
6 cups sugar
5 cups water
3 lemons, juice of

To strip the elderflowers gently pry them off the stems with your fingers. You want to minimize the amount of stem as much as possible because they are toxic. A little won’t hurt you, but don’t be a lazy bum – take the time and effort to strip the flowers from the stems. Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let boil for a few minutes then remove from heat. Add the flowers to the sugar syrup, cover. Let it infuse at least overnight, but up to 4 days. Bring the elderflower syrup back to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool. Strain out the flowers with a sieve or cheesecloth. Bottle. Keep refrigerated. Not sure how long it will last – at least a few weeks.

15 nibbles at “elderflower cordial”

  1. Ellen says:

    I am gradually getting forager fever, and this post accelerated it.

  2. Janelle says:

    Oh my goodness, I’ve been obsessed with elderflower for a few years (after a friend turned me on to an Elderflower Presse imported from England), and I just got some elderflower syrup from Ikea. If I could get my hands on some flowers, I would be making this in a heartbeat. As is, I’ll save the recipe for a day I might find some flowers to make my own syrup. Thanks, as always, for a great recipe!

  3. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    Wow, so pretty. I wish I could find fresh elderflowers here in San Diego. Haven’t seen any yet though!

  4. Carol says:

    My daily trip to town sends my eyes wandering checking out the stands of elderberries along the roadside. Mentally adding jelly to my August schedule and… wondering about the syrups- then your post today!! When it cools a tad tonite, I’m walking down the road to the nearest stand and gathering a bouquet!!!

    An elder neighbor (no pun intended) said they used to gather the fresh heads of flowers and hang them upside down enclosed in a paper sack to dry and later would steep the dried blossoms for tea. I’ve not researched this so have no specifics or cautions.

  5. Healthy Living Val says:

    Gorgeous photos! So cool that you made this from scratch. I bet there are some yummy cocktails (or mocktails) that this would be great in.

  6. Margie says:

    The recipe sounds divine, but that photo has me spellbound. How/what did you garnish this lovely item with?

    Stay safe!

  7. susan wing says:

    As usual, wonderful photos and recipe. My neighbor has a huge elderflower bush as well as a couple of walnut trees. Green, immature walnuts coincide with blooming elderflowers so I included the blossoms in a batch of nocino, an Italian liquore. David Lebovitz has a great recipe for nocino (excellent over ice cream). Hope you are safe and sound.

  8. Val says:

    What an incredible offering to your guests. This spring we baked with dandelions, but elderflowers are much more exquisite. Foraging for food is rewarding, particularly if good chefs are present. We also tried stinging nettle pesto this past spring which was absolutely delicious. Next year…who knows?

    Beautiful photos.

  9. Alison says:

    I adore elderflower cordial. Tried making it once and it was ok but not transcendent. Looking forward to trying your recipe–sounds like it might be just the ticket!

  10. M. K. says:

    I have a Black Lace Elderberry bush in my yard that produces pink blossoms. Will this work in culinary applications, or is it too domesticated…which I am not, but would love to try this recipe next year.

  11. Alexsandra says:

    Just a swelled inescapable drive by swoon – JY, thank you for your delightful, humorous, loving, aesthetically gorgeous, science nerd girl wonderful blog – it is my summer destination!

  12. jenyu says:

    Ellen – we need to get together with Butter and go for a forage.

    Janelle – you’re welcome!

    Brandon – I bet you could if you cruise some neighborhoods!

    Carol – nice tip – thanks!

    Healthy Living Val – yes, I’m going to experiment with some soon :)

    Margie – oh, that’s a lychee fruit with the peel still intact!

    susan – mmm! Thank you, we are good for now xo

    Val – thank you.

    Alison – I hope it works for you.

    M.K. – hrmmm, I don’t know enough to tell you one way or another. Probably easy enough to google online or research at the library?

    Alexsandra – you’re so sweet! Thank you xo

  13. Elliot says:

    Are you in Colorado? Did you forage elderflowers in Colorado?

  14. jenyu says:

    Elliot – yes and yes.

  15. Jacqui says:

    Dear JenYu,
    love your blog. Found this posting only a few years late and off season, but I think you should know that elderflowers make *fantastic* pannacotta. I bring the flowers (sometimes with a small piece of vanilla pod) in the cream to a boil, steep this overnight and then strain and do the pannacotta thing. It’s AMAZING.

leave a reply