The sun was shining when we arrived at Worthy farm. As we marched across vast fields filled with cars, vans and the odd portaloo in our quest to find a safe place to pitch our tent, I was delighted to see hedgerows lined with little white elderflowers emerging from their buds. Sadly, this was not the case as we left. The little white flowers had withered and turned brown and with them my hopes of homemade elderflower cordial and other adventures dashed.
Back in rainy old Leicestershire on a visit to my parents I relayed this story to my Mum, who insisted elderflower were still to be found in the hedgerows so off we went armed with secateurs and a walking stick (so we could reach the tall branches) foraging for elder.
Elderflowers are in bloom from early may through to june although the cold wet weather earlier in the year meant that they bloomed a little later this year. They are best picked on a dry day early in the morning as they loose their perfume as the day wears on. Elderflowers growing alongside busy roads will take on the roadside fumes, so we needed to track down elder growing on quiet country roads or public footpaths.
We didn’t have to go far………..
The hedgerows were bursting with elderflowers and we soon had around 60 heads in our basket. The late bloom had served us well.
Gooseberry and elderflower jam was my Mums advice when we discussed how to make the most of our crop. As well as being a particularly good flavour pairing the seasons overlap so you can be sure to get hold of both at the same time. Gooseberries are also very high in pectin so perfect for jam making.
So, que a swift visit to Whetstone pastures for gooseberry picking. The younger green fruits are best for eating as the older the fruit gets the harder the skin becomes. These too were abundant and it wasn’t long before we had two full punnets
Here’s what we did with our loot in 3 simple recipes…………
Gooseberry and elderflower jam
- 13-14 250ml- 300ml capacity jam jars and lids-this is a great way to recycle old jam jars if you are a bit of a hoarder like myself
- 2 kg gooseberries
- 2kg caster sugar
- 12 elderflower heads
- A large saucepan, around 5 litre capacity
- A jam thermometer
- measuring jug
- silicone paper circles, cut to the size of the mouth of your jam jars.
Give the elderflower heads a good shake to remove any bugs. Tie the heads up in a square of muslin with some string. Place the gooseberries and caster sugar together in a large saucepan with a splash of water. Place the elderflower bundle into the pan and tie the ends of the string to the handle of the pan so the bag won’t get lost in the mixture. Bring the jam mix to the boil then allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until it reaches 104° C on the jam thermometer. The gooseberries will turn a deep red during cooking.
Pour the hot mixture into sterilised jars, place silicone paper onto the top of the jam to seal then screw the lids tightly onto the jars. Set aside to cool. The jam will last 6-8 months if stored in a cool dry place.
- 30 elderflower heads
- 6 lemons cut into quarters
- 8oog caster sugar
- 1.5 litres water
- 2 tsp citric acid
Give the elderflower heads a good shake to remove any bugs then place directly into a preserving pan along with the lemons, sugar and citric acid. Pour the boiling water over the elderflower mixture, give all a good stir then set the mix aside for 24 hours to cool down and allow all the flavours to infuse.
Strain the mix through a sheet of muslin and pour into sterilised bottles. The mix should keep for 3-4 months, I like to keep mine in the fridge. Best served in a glass with ice, gin and tonic on a warm summer evening.
- 16 elderflower heads
- 900ml water
- 350g sugar
- 2 lemons- juice of
- 1 egg white
Give the elderflower heads a good shake to remove any bugs that may be lurking. Heat the water and sugar in a large sauce pan until it reaches a rolling boil then remove from the heat and immediately add the elderflower heads and lemon juice. Stir all together to combine. Leave the mix to cool and infuse- I left mine overnight to really let the flavours develop. Once completely cool strain the mix through a muslin cloth and transfer the liquid into either the bowl of an ice cream churner or a Tupperware container that will hold around 1 litre capacity.
If using an ice cream maker churn the liquid until semi frozen then whisk the egg white to a soft peak and add to the churning mixture. once completely frozen transfer the mixture into a tupperwhere container and freeze until ready to use.
If using a Tupperware container place the liquid mixture into the freezer for an hour until semi frozen,whisk the egg white to a soft peak and fold into the mixture and freeze for a further hour or so until the sorbet is firm.
Remove the sorbet from the freezer around 15 to 20 minutes before you wish to serve, pour boiling water into a measuring jug and allow the ice cream scoop to stand in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Add scoops of the mixture into small bowls using the warmed ice cream scoop. serve with fresh fruit. Best served with home grown strawberries.