How to make summer cordials

The hedgerows are bursting with elderflower and the garden is rich in fruit ripening in abundance. You can preserve the taste of summer right now, using fresh ingredients from your garden.

Elderflower Cordial
Make delicious elderflower cordial. Image: Martin Mulchinock.
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There are so many great reasons to use your garden produce to make refreshing summer cordials. First it’s a lovely way to use up fruit when you have a surplus. My raspberries always create a summer glut when the freezer is full, and though jam is a great alternative, a rrefreshing raspberry cordial makes a wonderful winter drink, or add a drop or two to a gin and tonic and it will send your tastebuds into orbit.

Cordials cost a lot to buy in the shops, so making your own saves you money. If you can save attractive bottles and use them to contain your creations, then you’ve made a very presentable gift, perfect for a summer lunch party.

Flower Power

The most obvious contender for a flowery cordial are elderflowers. These foamy blossoms are rich in fragrance that can be captured and bottled for later use. But you can also use rose petals, lavender or even lilac when in bloom. Pick them during a dry spell so that the rain hasn’t washed away their essence and follow the simple recipe below. There’s a full article on making elderflower cordial here.

elderflower
Elderflower ready to make cordial. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Fruit flavour

Pretty much any fruit can be used to make a summer cordial but be choosy and consider the colour of the fruit as well as its flavour and fragrance. An apple cordial might taste nice, but it’s likely to be beige or brown and not very attractive. Instead use fruit like raspberries, strawberries, elderberries (must be cooked), blackcurrants and even rhubarb, though it’s really a vegetable. You can also make cocktails of a mixture if you don’t have enough of one type.

elderberry syrup
Make cordial from hedgerow fruit such as elderberries. Image: Jean Vernon

Leaves and shoots

Don’t forget your herbs. Making a herby cordial is a FANTASTIC way to preserve the flavour and jazz up summer cocktails. Perfect for alchoholic and non-alcoholic beverages! Lemon verbena is particularly good, but so is rosemary. Experiment but do consider the power of plants and ensure there are no medical contraindications to what you are making, taking and sharing! There is more information on making herb cordials here.

These summer drinks taste as good as they look! Image: Jean Vernon

The simplest cordial is really a sugar syrup. You don’t need complicated ingredients, just bunches of your botanical, some sugar and some water. As a rough guide use 1:1 parts of sugar to water.

Ingredients

One cup of water

One cup of sugar

3-4 tablespoons of flower, leaf or fruit

 

Method

  1. In a large pan, make a syrup by mixing the sugar with the water and heat it until the sugar has dissolved completely. Allow to cool.
  2. Shake the flowers or leaves very gently to allow any insects to depart. Do NOT wash them. If it’s leaves chop them up. Add to the cooled syrup and allow to steep for up to two days.
  3. Strain to leave the fragrant syrup. Reheat the syrup to boiling point but don’t allow to boil. Pour carefully into sterilised bottles and seal while hot. Allow to cool and store in a cool dark place.

 

 

Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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