IN SEASON : MAY - JUNE
PARTNER WITH : RASPBERRY, LEMON, LIME, STRAWBERRY, RHUBARB, GOOSEBERRY, MANGO
L to R : Blueberry & Elderflower Cakes, Gooseberry & Elderflower Preserve, Lime & Elderflower Cakes, Fruit Salad
I always think of elderflowers as the first signs of summer, little clusters of these white starry flowers start to pop up all around London and I turn into an elderflower opportunist. I start carrying around a tote bag, ready to stuff with fistfuls of these pretty, fragrant blooms. The season starts slightly later further north so I’m able to extend the picking season by visiting friends and family in Birmingham and Wales. They are fairly easy to spot however there are a lot of trees and plants which look slightly similar. Have a look at the ID guide on my instagram @elizabethkerr__ and drop me a DM if you’re not sure. Pick them on a sunny day and away from main roads.
TRIED & TESTED
There seems to be hundreds of recipes for this online. All with different ratios of sugar / elderflower / water. Here’s the one I’ve settled on - 2kg white granulated sugar, 3L of water, 100g citric acid (optional), 4 lemons, around 40 elderflower heads. Use more / less depending on how many elderflower heads you have and how many bottles you’d like to make. Add the sugar, water and citric acid to a large pan (I like to use a preserving pan for thid but a big stock pot or saucepan will do), gently heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Using a vegetable peeler, cut strips of zest from the lemon and add to the pan. Juice the lemons and add this too. Then add the elderflower heads (check each one for bugs before adding to the pan!). Cover with a tea towel and let the mixture sit for a couple of days, stirring once a day or so.
The citric acid is optional but I do think it helps to preserve the cordial and gives it a better taste. You can find it in pharmacies or buy online here
Limes work really nicely in place of the lemons or add in the petals of a couple of roses
Use elderflower cordial as a drizzle in fruit salads - this mix of Indian mango, raspberries and elderflower is a great combination
I’ve tried using elderflower cordial in cake mixtures before but I think you lose a lot of the delicate flavour. Instead, use the cordial as a drizzle - after baking, poke holes with a skewer throughout the cake and drizzle over a little cordial. This works really well in a blueberry & almond cake, zesty lime drizzle cake or this Elderflower & Pistachio Cake from Anna Jones
GOOSEBERRY & ELDERFLOWER PRESERVE
This is such a beautiful combination and if you get the gooseberries early in the season when they’re not too ripe, the jam turns into a lovely blush pink colour. There’s something about the colour compounds in the skin that change colour with a changing heat or acidity.
To make the jam, add 1kg gooseberries to a pan with a small amount of water and cook gently until they’re starting to soften, then add 700g granulated sugar. Wait for the sugar to dissolve and then turn the heat up to a rolling boil. Keep stirring the mixture regularly until it feels thicker - you can check the set of the jam by keeping a small plate in the fridge. Add a droplet of the mixture and return the plate to the fridge. Check after 5 minutes to see if the drop wrinkles when you push it with your finger. If it wrinkles, this means that the jam will set. Stir in 100ml of elderflower cordial and then pour it into sterilised jars and leave to cool completely.
MORE IDEAS :
ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/242620/elderflower-champagne
PATE DE FRUIT I love the look of these pate de fruit - https://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/elderflower-pate-de-fruit-recipe
PANNA COTTA - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9295431/Elderflower-pannacotta.html