Food Foraging - Elderflowers
As we approach mid summer a few recipes made with elderflowers. refreshing, home made cordial, icecream, even a vinaigrette.
The sweetly scented, creamy-white flowers of the elder tree appear in abundance in hedgerows, scrub, woodlands and wasteland in early summer. If you are lucky enough to have them in your garden, even better. Although the flowers may have a heady perfume, the young leaves, by comparison, smell pretty rank; bunches of foliage were once tied to the harnesses of working horses to ward off flies.
They are best gathered just as the many tiny buds are beginning to open, and some are still closed. Gather on a warm, dry day (never pick when wet), checking that the perfume is fresh and pleasing, you will soon get to know where the good ones are, as the perfume of the flowers on the trees do differ.
A reminder to not pick from the roadside shrubs due to the pollution from cars, where you pick from fields and scrub, pick at shoulder height or above and remember to leave some flowers for elderberry picking later in the year.
15 heads of elderflower - 500g caster sugar - 4 tbs of good quality runny honey - 2 unwaxed lemons
1. Wash the elderflower well, picking off any bugs.
2. Place the sugar and honey in a large saucepan with 1 litre of water. Gently bring to the boil, until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
3. Finely grate in the lemon zest and add the elderflower upside down, making sure the flowers are completely submerged.
4. Squeeze in the juice from one of the lemons, then slice the other and add it to the pan, too. Pop the lid on and leave to one side to infuse for 24 hours.
5. When you’re ready to strain your cordial, line a fine sieve with muslin over a large bowl (if you don’t have muslin, you can use good quality kitchen towel or a cotton pillowcase) and pour through the cordial.
6. Store in sterilised bottles or jars and drink diluted with spring water, soda or a light, sparkling wine such as Prosecco.
Note: If you are picking from a pink elderflower bush in your garden, your cordial will be pink!!!
Elderflower ice cream
This recipe is additive free, It does mean that the ice cream doesn’t keep as well, as the flavour fades after about a month without any preservatives, but with icecream this good it's unlikely to last a month anyway
1 large egg - 90g sugar, preferably raw cane sugar - 240ml whipping cream (35% - 40% fat) - 120ml milk (full fat or semi-skimmed) - 60ml homemade elderflower cordial
Any good quality commercial elderflower cordial, such as Bottle Green can be used instead. You might need more as the strength varies, so have a taste and add more if required. (Don't forget to keep the cordial in the fridge as ice cream ingredients should always be cold.) For a slight variation, add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the grated rind of a lemon to the mixture
1. Whisk the egg in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
2. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then continue whisking for another minute until well blended.
3. Pour in the cream, milk and elderflower essence and whisk to blend.
4. Pour into an ice cream maker with the paddle running.
5. Transfer to a tub and keep until required. (Note: this ice cream is soft enough to serve straight from the freezer, but for best results move the tub to a fridge about 5-10 minutes before required.)
Without an ice cream machine
If you’ve not got an ice cream machine, continue whipping after stage 3 for another 2 or 3 minutes, then transfer to an ice cream container. Cover the surface of the ice cream with cling film (food wrap) and freeze. Remove the mixture from the freezer every half hour. Fork over the mixture thoroughly and return to the freezer. Repeat this step until the mixture is thoroughly frozen, which will normally take 2 or 3 hours.
Who would have thought it? This interesting combination works well and can be used as dressing for salads. Just mix equal parts of elderflower cordial and olive/rapeseed oil, a dash of white wine vinegar a touch of Dijon mustard and some honey if you like.
To the forager, the spoils, relax and enjoy.
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