How to make Lilac Cordial

by | Nov 9, 2022 | In the kitchen, Preserving

I want to build culture away from supermarkets and consumerism and into gardens, forests and streams.

The very talented Caroline who wears a knitted hat made by her and a woven poncho (underneath the long cardigan) also made by her, picking Lilacs with an expression I can’t quite explain…I chose this photo because it was different to the usual perfect mellow expressions often accompanied by a post like this.

I want to layer and texture and thicken our connection to place. I want you to fall in love with where you live. And if where you live feels a bit drab or unexciting, I urge you to start a garden.

You don’t need a great deal of lilacs to make cordial. We harvested about ten lilac flower clusters.

For every birthday and all other occasions ask for a garden. Your own garden, a community garden, or a gorilla garden (a garden in a public space where you begin to plant because the space is obviously neglected and unloved).

They are lovely Lilacs! Get right into the flowers with your nose and take a deep breathe (if you don’t have a lilac allergy).

I really love gardens and I really love the experiences that come from them. Getting to know plants and making them your friend. Calling out to them by name.

Lilac detail.

As I was travelling with a friend deep in conversation recently we both noticed with an abrupt turn of our heads, a shining orange Azalea cloaked in a lush garden of green. We pulled over to ask…’what is the name of that shrub?’…now we know…

Lilac flower detail.

Back in the car we traveled further, you and I, and we decided that even though we were tired we would stop at Hepburn Wholefoods because the lilac shrub there was in flower and we wanted to make lilac cordial. We were tired but not too tired to forage and to make lilac cordial.

Harvest detail.

Place Lilacs in a pot, but first remove any insects by softly banging flowers against your leg out in the garden.
Cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 mins. Allow to cool and then place in the fridge overnight. You want to let it steep for 24 hours in fridge or very cool place.
The next day most of the flavour and colour of the lilacs has been transferred to the water bath it was in.
Strain flowers
Use a fine tea towel (a plain one with no dyes) or a muslin cloth. Strain flowers.
Look at that gorgeous fragrant liquid!
Bring the strained liquid to the boil gently. As it simmers, add sugar, half a cup at a time until the mixture is as sweet as cordial. Allow sugar to dissolve. Now add lemon juice. Add a little and taste. Add a little more and taste. Once you can clearly taste and detect the flavour of lemon juice and you can denote a distinct acidity to the mixture then you can stop adding further lemon juice. Preferably use a pH strip to reach an acidity of pH 4. Add a few drops of vanilla. Keep the lilac mixture simmering very gently. Now wash jars well and sterilise jars. Jars are sterilised when boiled for 10 mins at sea level. Adjust sterilisation time if you are above sea level. See specialty Food Preserving Websites such as the National Centre for Home Food Preservation for details on how to sterilise jars. Once jars are sterilised, remove Lilac mixture from heat. Remove hot sterilised jars from sterilising pot. Place hot Lilac syrup in hot sterilised jars leaving a 10mm gap between lid and top of liquid. Now hot water bath Lilac filled jars for 5 mins. For more details on Food Preserving know how, please read information on the National Centre for Home Food Preservation website. Thank you and enjoy!


  1. Louiseann King

    Thank you for sharing! So beautiful!

  2. Emma Garland

    Love your blog! Just a reminder to please use secateurs next time to remove the flowers. Please do not just rip or break them off. You wouldn’t just rip or break them off your own tree. Many HWC shoppers pick and enjoy from this overhanging tree. I must have come to the tree just after you and Caroline were there. Thanks, Emma

    • Mara

      Excellent feedback….thank you heaps, yes we had no secateurs between us on that day…and yes indeed I would rather use secateurs…thank you very much…I must keep a pair in the car at all times and never take them out of the car…


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