Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An evanescence of elderflowers

The recent TV competition to find a British menu to serve at a banquet in the British Embassy in Paris culminated last week as the feast was presented. The big hit was Mark Hix’s jelly and elderflower ice cream. I knew it would be. Didn’t I say it would be? And the amazing thing was that the French knew nothing about elderflowers. How can that be? They grow like weeds here and I’m sure they have them in France. The scent, a gooseberry fragrance like a Sauvignon Blanc, is fragile and fleeting and delicate. If you want to do anything with elderflowers you must gather them and use them immediately.

Elderflower cordial, which you will need to make the ice cream, is the easiest thing imaginable. This is a recipe from Jane Grigson, given to her by a neighbour.


Makes about 1½ litres
20 large heads of elderflower
4lb (1.8 kg) granulated sugar
2¾ oz (75g) citric acid (from chemists)
2 lemons


Put the elderflowers in a large basin
Place sugar in large pan with 2 pints water and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over elderflowers, stir in citric acid, add grated zest of lemons, then slice lemons and add to the bowl.
Cover and leave for 24 hours
Strain through double muslin to catch lemon rind and any extraneous wildlife
Pour into sterilised bottles and store in a cool dark place.

Correctly stored this will keep for months. It’s great as a summer drink with fizzy water, or with fizzy water and vodka, or gin. You can add a splash to gooseberries too.

While the sugar is dissolving, make Elderflower Vinegar.

This is excellent for deglazing the pan after frying chicken, or pork.

Just cram as many heads of elderflower as will go into a preserving jar; cover with white wine vinegar and leave on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks. Strain through muslin and bottle.


Susan in Italy said...

I just love recipes for lovely things made with ingredients you find in the wild. Any idea if elderflowers grow in italy' I haven't seen the ones in your photo but the sambuca flowers (that grow everywhere) look similar.

June said...

Yes yes yes! Its Latin name is sambucus nigra. You will definitely know it by its scent.

Ulrike said...

In Northern Germany it's a common plant in hedgerows.

Pille said...

They know nothing about elderflower in Estonia, too! And I love elderflower cordial, so I've decided that there will definitely be couple of elderflowers in my garden soon!

June said...

Oh Pille,do be careful, it's an absolute weed!

June said...

PS to all

In the autumn there will be elderberries, dark smoky flavour and great with venison, as a conserve or as a sorbet. British (sic) wine used to be adulterated with the juice, ditto Ribena I believe (how scandalous!)

Joanna said...

Elderflower vinegar - now why didn't I think of that? Thank you, June! I'm just off out right now to pick some. And, yes, don't even THINK about planting them ... they're everywhere, good excuse for a country picnic if you live in a city ... also they seem to come with nettles at their feet as standard, and you really don't want more nettles than you've probably already got!


Pille said...

Thanks, June, for the warning. I'll be careful:)

lindy said...

There are plenty of elderberries growing here in the mid-atlantic states, but no one makes anything of them here. Sadly, there are none around me, but I've got my cordial from IKEA and have big plans for the icecream.

Judy said...

I finally found some elder flowers growing in a safe place to pick (not at the edge of a high speed highway.) Having some homemade apple juice extract from a previous project (not pectin extract which I'm now making from the local orchard's thinnings) I simmered the elder flowers in the apple extract, for elder flower apple jelly. Should be nice, don't you agree?

June said...


I think elderflower apple jelly sounds just delicious, and will work brilliantly with chicken or pork or maybe even fish.

Isn't it odd how elders are attracted to carbon monoxide!

Can you explain about pectin extract? At this time of year the apple trees are going to drop, or discard, some of the unripe fruit - is this what you make it with?

Judy said...

June, I was at the local orchard picking sour cherries. And saw that Dick had been thinning the apples. The ground under the trees had lots of unripe puckery, loaded with pectin apples. Waste not, want not. So I took two small buckets full home with me to make pectin. Here's what to do.

Rinse apples. Cut in half, then into slices. As they are cut, drop into pot of water so the slices do not brown. Finish up with water just lower than apples. Cover pot, start on high heat, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until apple slices are very soft. Laddle mushy apples and liquid into chinois. No chinois? Laddle into colendar lined with dampened butter muslin, clean piece of old sheet, or several layers of dampened cheesecloth.

Let drip for 3 or 4 hours, even overnight. Liquid will be somewhat thick and syrup-y. Discard pulp. Reheat pectin liquid to boil, pour into sterilized canning jars (I use 12 ounce and pints.) Close with two piece lid-and-rings and process in boiling water bath.

Then when I'm making preserves from fruit low in pectin (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) I use pectin liquid to cook the berries. I used some for the sour cherry spoonsweet I made yesterday, since I find cherries, even sour cherries, difficult to gel.

Judy said...

If you go to my web site www.bellewood-gardens.com click on Diary and then click on Creek Road Crafts it will take you to my preserves page. June, have a look and if it meets with your approval publish it with the other comments. If there was a way to e-mail you privately I'd have done it that way.

June said...


Thank you so much for this. I do hope other people see it too. I will make a link to Bellewood Gardens.

Judy said...

Here's a link to a nice mention of elderflower from The Human Flower project. Enjoy


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