So I know I am late to the party here, but I am having such fun with Elderflowers at the moment that I had to write about it. Forgive me but I have not spent the summer in England for five years and the last two summers before I left were cold and rainy (we had flooding in Sheffield in July). Therefore it is at least seven years since I remember feeling any affection for the English summer, until now.
In those years it seems Elderflowers have become kind of trendy. You can buy Elderflower cordial everywhere, even my local shop has it. It was Becky who suggested to me that I pick some flowers and make some cordial (thanks sis) which I have done and am enjoying immensely. However it has turned into a full blown Elderflower craze.
The flowers have arrived late here due to the freezing cold spring but are now everywhere, and I can’t stop eating them.
I have been desperately trying to capture and infuse those heady aromas into everything I can before the flowers disappear. I think on some subconscious level I believe that if I can save some of it, in the terrible event that I have to spend winter in England I will be able to use the things I make now as some sort of foodie tincture against the winter blues.
Thus far I have: tried all kinds of recipes, been on an organised walk to learn all about the beloved tree and given myself an upset tummy.
Here are a few of the things I have learned:
- The Elder is an amazing and very giving tree – can’t wait for the berries
- Eating even a small amount of the stalks is bad for your tummy
- The flavour is so delicate it is easy to overwhelm it
- Picking the flowers in the sun really does make for better flavour in the end
- They are quite hard to photograph
- Elderflower custard is not that nice
- The flowers are not pleasant to eat
- You can do lots of different things with it: cordial, jellies, fritters, syrup, trifle, custard, a poaching syrup, curd, tea, vinegar, cocktails and champagne.
- I am so into gin & Elderflower cordial that I haven’t had a Pimms for days.
My favourite Elderflower cordial is with lime. I use about half the amount of sugar than most recipes I have found and 2 limes – no other fruit. It creates a lovely light cordial which is really fragrant and not too syrupy. I have yet to find a reason for putting so much syrup in the cordial and would love to know why it is done this way. I also use citric acid as I found that without it the cordial was starting to get fizzy in a matter of days.
Some experiments have been really successful, (I have eaten a lot of elderflower jelly) and others not so much. I found the elderflower custard too sweet and tried several methods to cut through that with some citrus, but by the time it was palatable, the elderflower was lost.
I made a very delicious orange and elderflower trifle (regular custard topping). Oranges are for me a great match with elderflower as they are more gentle than lemon.
Elderflower champagne is really easy to make. I have to wait another couple of weeks before I can try mine but will let you know how it goes. We can all use some free booze now and then.
A week ago I put Elderflower in some white wine vinegar. I just checked it and the vinegar is definitely starting to take on some of the elder flavour so I put a few more flower heads in just to make sure. The recipe states that the flowers need at least three weeks in the vinegar so I have to be patient a little longer, but have high hopes for this one.
After all this, the thing I am most crazy about is Elderflower curd.
I do love a good curd. Lemon and raspberry have been among my favourite toast toppings for years. So, when I found a recipe for Elderflower curd on the internet, I was straight out picking more flowers. The recipe was the same as a basic lemon curd recipe, but instead of lemon it used Elderflower cordial and halved the sugar. I found this way too sweet and I didn’t really like the taste. I really felt that without something to contrast with the flowers their flavour was insipid, even uninteresting.
I decided some citrus was what was needed, so tried the recipe with lime and found it much better. The combination of sweet and slightly tart, with a floral aftertaste, is divine. I have also found that using the flowers rather than cordial gives a much more aromatic curd. It seems to me that the fewer processes the flowers go through between tree and tastebuds, the better.
You can really play around with this recipe so that the end product suits you. I have put only one teaspoon of lime juice in the recipe, but sometimes this is not enough and I add a little more at the end.
Elderflower and Lime Curd Recipe
- Put the sugar and lime rind in a heatproof bowl
- Snip the flowers from the flowerheads. This takes a few minutes, but is worth it as the stalks are very bitter and you get to enjoy the heady scent of the pollen as you work
- Add these to the bowl along with the whisked eggs and yolk
- Finally dot the butter on top of the ingredients
- Heat gently over simmering water
- The curd forms as the egg cooks and all the ingredients amalgamate so make sure to stir it regularly. It is best to use a spatula as this removes all the cooked parts from the bottom of the bowl and they mix in and gradually thicken the curd
- You will know when it is ready because it will be thick and shiny.
- Use a sieve to remove the flowers out, and enjoy.
This curd is great on toast and pancakes and I plan to try it as a cake filling and have been dipping shortcake biscuits in it as I write this.
There are a multitude of uses for Elderflowers in food, so my adventures are not over yet. Delia Smith also reckons Elderflowers and gooseberries are a match made in heaven, but I will have to wait for them to ripen to see for myself. There must be hundreds of possible cocktails, cakes, and other desserts. I really want to try to infuse Elderflower into chocolate (suggestions please!). This evening I am going to try and somehow work them into a duck dish with blackberries, fingers crossed.
If you’ve got any good recipes to share, or tips for getting the best out of elderflowers then let me know!