How to Make Elderflower Cordial – Foraging in the City

Hopefully, those lovely weekends when the sun shows its face for the full two days aren’t far away and when they do come nothing’s better for sipping in the sunshine than elderflower cordial.

Foraging for Elderflower

The best bit about making your own elderflower cordial is that the main ingredient is so easy to find around Notts. Elder trees grow along lots of the roadsides, footpaths and parks in Nottingham and now that summer is on its way they are in full bloom. Just on my journey home from work I cycle past more than 10 elder trees.

If you’re new to foraging it’s a great way of making use of the natural ingredients that are in abundance in our city. I’ll be doing lots of blogs on different recipes that you can create from foraged ingredients so keep an eye out on Facebook and Instagram for them and save yourself some dosh on your weekly shop! If you want some really great ideas for all the different things you can cook from ingredients that are growing all over the city, I really recommend The Hedgerow Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for Wild Food (Wild at Heart), it’s full of great stuff.

When looking for elderflower, the first job is to know exactly what an elder tree looks like. If you’re not sure, here’s a picture of one near the railway station in Netherfield.


Note: Don’t mix elderflower up with Cow Parsley! Cow Parsley grows up on stalks from the ground, elderflower hangs from the tree, they’re not too tall so you should easily be able to pick the flower.

How to Make Elderflower Cordial

Once you’ve got your elderflower you’re going to need some other ingredients, unfortunately, you won’t find these growing around Nottingham, to my knowledge but please let me know if we have some wild lemon trees in the city!

You’re going to need:

10 Big Elderflower Heads

Only pick nice ones, if they look like something else has been munching on them then they probably aren’t the best bet. Just be careful you aren’t nicking them out of someone’s garden, it’s not the best way to make yourself popular in your neighborhood.

A Big Mixing Bowl

I love our Mason Cash mixing bowl that’s been passed down through the family. They come in different sizes, you can head down to John Lewis and buy your own family cooking heirloom.

A Glass Jug

It doesn’t actually have to be glass; I’m just not a fan of plastic jugs.

Glass Bottles

If you’re giving your cordial out to friends or bringing it out at a party get yourself some nice bottles to decant it into. I love these – Pack of 6 1 Litre Glass Milk Bottles with silver lids.

Muslin Squares

You can pick muslin squares up in the baby section at Wilko’s and they’re cheaper than the ones marketed for cooking. Try and get a colour that’s matches your kitchen because you’re going to leave it out on the side for a few days.

1 1/2 Big Lemons

They need to be unwaxed and get good ones, the Fruit Basket in West Bridgford has some great quality fruit produce and it’s local – so what’s not to like.

420g Granulated Sugar

Again try and get good stuff, you don’t have to go crazy but don’t buy the cheapest one if you want it to taste nice.

18g Citric Acid

Citric acid wasn’t the easiest to find, but did you know the Wilko in Nottingham City Centre has a homebrewing section in there and you can pick it up for 99p? It’s also available from the online store.

NOTE: Get the citric acid that’s for cooking not cleaning. I don’t know what the difference is but I’m sure, like me, you don’t want to find out!



  • Cut your lemon into thick slices and pop into the bowl with the elderflower. Make sure you have given the elderflower a good shake and got rid of any critters that are in it
  • Put the sugar in a pan with half a litre of water and give it a stir over heat until all the sugar has dissolved
  • Pour the sugary solution into the bowl and add the citric acid
  • Give it a good stir and then cover with the muslin square
  • Leave the bowl on the side in the kitchen for a day or two, the longer you leave it the stronger the concentrate will be

When you’re happy with the strength of your cordial, drain it through the muslin into the glass jug. This will get rid of all the bits and you should be left with an ever so slightly viscous yellow cordial.

Decant from the jug to your bottles and you’re done! Easy peasy!

It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks if it’s sealed. Give it a good shake before drinking.


If you’re lucky enough to own a soda stream you can add some fizz to your cordial for a nice bubbly elderflower drink.

The cordial can also be used as a mixer (keep an eye out for my new blog on some nice cocktails using elderflower cordial) or why not make some sophisticated ice lollies.