Around here, the elder is in full flower and looking across the fields, it’s easy to spot the cream coloured blobs of saucer shaped flowers. The flowers need to be picked when they’re still creamy coloured; you should leave them once they’ve turned white or started to brown. I once read that they harbour fewer insects if picked early in the day, but I’m not sure if that’s true.
If you have an elder growing near you, arm yourself with a pair of scissors and cut some before it disappears. You need to deal with the flowers as soon as you get home as they don’t keep well and even left overnight will take on a decidedly unappealing smell.
Here’s some ideas for using your freshly cut elderflowers.
Drink this fresh as a cordial or leave it for two or three weeks for the wild yeasts to gently ferment in the bottle giving you a fizzy drink. The longer it’s kept, the drier and more alcoholic (though it never gets too strong) it becomes so that by October it’s usually too dry for me. That said, I once found a bottle in the spring time that we drank. Fearing it might be a bit lively, we took it outside to open and two thirds of the bottle sprayed across the grass.
Read the recipe for Elderflower Fizz >>
Elderflower & Rose Cordial
I’m not a great fan of the colour pink but in summer there’s something very seductive about a pale pink drink, particularly with bubbles gently rising to the top. An elder bush has insinuated itself amongst the roses, making a pretty combination of creamy white elder flowers, pink roses and green foliage and while I was picking elderflowers, it struck me that not only would a combination of elderflower and rose make a pretty pink drink, but it would taste good too.
Rose and Elderflower Cordial
25 elder flower heads
4 rose heads – choose a fragrant deep coloured variety
750g granulated sugar
25g citric acid
1 litre cold water
When you’re picking elder flowers, choose the creamy pollen laden ones rather than any that are turning brown. Don’t wash them but shake off any insects and then cut off the big stems, letting the florets fall into a large bowl. Snip off the white part of the rose petals as it’s supposed to be bitter and add the shredded rose petals to the bowl. I find it easiest to hold the rose by the stem and just snip the petals into strips, working my way around the edge until I reach the middle. Much easier than trying to snip individual petals.
Remove the lemon peel with a potato peeler and add to the bowl, together with the juice of the lemons.
Now tip in the sugar, citric acid and cold water and give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar. You might need to come back after half an hour and give it another stir.
Cover and leave for 24 hours in the cool. You can leave it for another day, but don’t be tempted to leave it too long as mould will start to grow on the elderflowers. I speak from experience.
Strain and bottle. Dilute with still or sparkling water.
A richer version of Elderflower Milk Jelly. Recently I made these in small metal pudding tins and unmoulded them to serve (as you would with panna cotta). Unfortunately, I hadn’t been very diligent removing all the tiny insects so it looked as though I’d flavoured the creams with a vanilla pod and scraped out the seeds. They tasted fine.
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
6 heads elderflowers snipped from the main stem
Leaf gelatine – enough to set 600ml
45g caster sugar
Pour about 6 tablespoons of milk into a bowl, snip the gelatine into pieces and add to the milk and leave to soak.
Put the remaining milk into a saucepan with the cream and elderflower heads and heat gently. When the cream and milk reach simmering point, remove the pan from the heat and place the bowl containing the gelatine on top of the saucepan for five minutes. The elderflowers will continue to infuse the creamy milk with their flavour and the heat will dissolve the gelatine in the bowl above.
After five minutes, strain the creamy milk into a jug, discard the elderflowers and stir in the sugar. Stir the gelatine and milk mixture into the elderflower infused cream and and pour into six small ramekins.
Leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours.
Gooseberry and elderflower fool
Simmer 500g gooseberries with 5 large heads of elder flowers 4 tablespoons of sugar and a spoonful of water for ten minutes until the gooseberries start to burst. Leave until cold and then pick out the elderflowers. Lightly mash the gooseberries with a fork, fold in 300ml of softly whipped cream and serve.
Elderflower Infused Water
Delightful as cordials are, I can’t drink them all day. In summer I like to keep a jug of water in the fridge because otherwise I waste too much water waiting for the tap to run cold and these Infused Waters are really just a step up from a slice of lemon floating in the jug. Certainly if you’re the driver for the evening, they beat the gloom of glass after glass of plain water or worse still, sweet gloopy UHT orange juice.
Just add a couple of elderflower heads with a slice or two of lemon to a jug of water and chill. Elderflower, Rose & Lime also works well. I keep the jug in the fridge and top up with water as I use it during the day.
Have a good weekend.