Everywhere, in every hedgerow the elder is coming into bloom, bury your nose into the flowers and take in the sweet and heady scent! The internet abounds with receipes for elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne (and do have a go at those) but why not give this a try as well…
Gooseberry and Elderflower Preserve (taken fromthe ever resourceful Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’)
Have 4 flower heads with as little stalk as possible to each 1lb of gooseberries. Put the fruit in a preserving pan with 1 pint of water for every 1lb fruit and simmer for half an hour, mashing the fruit to a pulp as you go along. Add 1 lb sugar to every 1lb fruit, stir until dissolved and then bring to the boil. Tie the elderflowers in muslin and add the whole lot, boil until setting point is reached (for more info on the specifics of jam check out http://www.make-jam.co.uk). Remove the bag of flowers and pour into jars as usual. ‘The flavour is quite transformed…and is reminiscent of muscat grapes’.
Can’t be bad!
How can you ignore the fragrant plate like flowers adoring every hedgerow? I can’t, for me they simply smell of summer. Making Elderflower Champagne or Cordial preserves that so that everytime you open a bottle it releases just a little bit of early summer sunshine.
For anyone wanting to know more about elderflower Transition Chesterfield is running ‘The Joy of Elderflower’ as part of their Summer 2010 skill shares go to http://www.transitionchesterfield.org.uk/content/summer-skill-share-workshops , but for now here is how to make a beautiful fruity elderflower cordial.
Take 12 heads of elderflowers, remove the stems and any bugs (but don’t wash), pick them when its sunny for fullest flavour. Jucie and zest 2 oranges and 1 lemon and combine with 1lb 4oz sugar and 30g citric acid (go to a chemist that either knows you or will believe that you are not about to use it to assist with your heroin habit). Add to all this just under 2 pints of boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the flowers and leave overnight. Poour through a fine sieve or muslin into very clean bottles. The cordial will keep for a few months, or better still pop it into smaller plastic bottles, leaving expansion room and freeze.
Whist I realise that rhubarb isn’t usually wild, it goes tastes so brilliant, its just so wonderful to have fresh home grown food and its goes so very well with wild things that are around, so I thought I would include it.
This evening I cooked a whole panful of rhubarb with just a little sugar and a big slosh of last year’s sloe gin. The sloe gin was a great success from last year – but I’ve not run out yet!
Rhubarb also goes really well with elderflower, last Thursday’s ‘Times’ recommended poaching it as above with elderflower cordial, but I prefer it cooked with just a little liquid and sugar and served with cream whipped with a spoonful of icing sugar and a handful of elderflower blossoms.