How to make elderberry cordial [Recipe]


elderberries in wicker basket

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It’s autumn (finally) and in the north of England, elderberries are glistening like jewels in the hedgerows. Especially if you can pick them straight from a tree (free) and considering all their benefits, these wonderful berries should be put to good use.


Health benefits

Photo by Den Forster

Elderberries are excellent sources of vitamins A, B and C. They are credited for helping to combat colds, flu, nasal and chest congestion, as well as hay fever. Elderberries also contain flavonoids, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center, which have antioxidant properties and may help prevent damage to the body’s cells — adding the important caveat that few studies have been done in humans, so researchers don't know how effective elderberry may be.


Consuming elderberries

The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions that berries must be cooked before they are consumed, because raw berries contain a chemical similar to cyanide. Because of their mild flavor, this berry is ideal for making jam or cordial.



  • Elderberries
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Large stockpot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Colander
  • Muslin square/cotton tea towel
  • Large jug
  • Sterilised bottles



  1. Wash and de-stalk the berries — this can be time consuming, but it’s necessary and worth it. The easiest way is to run a fork down the stalks. Put all the berries in a big bowl of water and swill around to remove any dust and hitchhikers. Leaves and stems of this plant are considered toxic in the long-term, so ensure they are removed, a few tiny floret stems will be okay though.
  2. Place the berries in a large pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring slowly to the boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes or so, stirring from time to time. I use a large stockpot and a wooden spoon. (Take care when in the kitchen as the juice WILL stain).
  3. You then need to strain the juice from the berries — put a muslin square or cotton tea towel in a colander and pour the contents of your pan through and into a receiving large bowl or jug.
  4. Measure your liquid to calculate how much sugar (or equivalent) you need — rough guide is 1.5 pints of liquid to 1 pound of sugar.
  5. Return sugar and liquid back to the pan and lightly simmer to ensure all the sugar has dissolved.
  6. Decant your cordial into sterilized bottles and securely fit the stopper or cap — put in the fridge or a cold place.


Here’s mine: Five bottles of cordial and a jug containing elderberries infusing in vodka!

Photo by Den Forster 

How to drink your cordial

Be inventive! Cordial doesn’t just have to be added to water. It works equally well or better in sparkling water or as an addition to your Christmas fizz. You can even pour into an ice cube tray and add the cubes to your vodka or gin!



As long as your cordial is kept in a cold place it should keep for up to 12 months.


Den Forster

Den (Denise) Forster works for a construction company in York, U.K. Has a teenaged son, Adam. Married since 1993 to Mark. Has a cat called Lily who is eight. Enjoys music of all types and was a Leeds Goth in the 1980s. Is an accomplished knitter who is always up for a challenge!