Elderflower Profusion.

It’s a bank holiday here, it’s raining in a fairly gentle manner, the teenagers are (they say) swotting for their exams which begin on Wednesday, and the small girls are sitting behind me watching Horrible Histories on a loop (it’s very funny).

I have nicked somebody’s headphones, for the sake of insulation from Terry Deary’s distracting puns, and am listening to Coldplay. Did you watch the Manchester concert last night? I was fiercely impressed by the spirit of it. It was respectful and uplifting, I thought, and appropriate. Not to even mention that thing Chris Martin does to a piano stool…

Ireland peaks in June. There’s enough sun, enough rain and enough hope of a glorious summer still to come. It’s a feeling so good you (or at least, I) want to bottle it. Which perhaps explains the frantic rush to preserve the scent of elderflowers.

But first, sad news. We had a death in the family. Kombucha with pink elder flowers. Second fermentation.

Alas, poor Scoby died. Or turned mouldy anyway and I, with a massive sigh of relief, held up a DNR notice. So, this bottle which was only marginally enhanced by the addition of pink elderflowers, was officially the last bottle of Kombucha to be fermented in this house.

Ever.

Phew.

Now, on to the good stuff.

First, a quick note on Elderflowers (Sambuca nigra). I have a young plant in the garden of a pink variety called Black Lace which has a lovely cut leaf and pink flower. I have been advised, however, that another variety called Black Beauty has a darker pink flower and makes and even darker cordial so that’s one to look out for at the garden centre. I was willing to sacrifice only a half dozen or so heads from our little plant so most of these recipes were made with bog standard wild Elderflower foraged from the river bank where we walk the dog. The rule of thumb is to take only what you can reach from the ground and leave the remainder for the bees and birds. The scent of Elderflower is potent; you don’t need much. And, it’s nice to go back for elderberries to make Autumn Pudding.

Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking is the book of the moment. It is a goldmine of recipes for anything you might forage, find or foster in your garden. If you want to sample some of the recipes, many have been included in Darina’s column in The Examiner (known locally as de paper) over the years. I’ve linked to those posts where I could find the relevant recipes.

I was pleased to discover that Elderflower Fizz (or Elderflower Champagne, same thing) counts as a fermented drink. Wahoo!

Drink up, it’s positively good for you.

It’s also dead easy to make although I have been warned that it is notoriously prone to spontaneous nocturnal explosion.

Elderflower fizz, or champagne.

The recipe says to wait two weeks but I suspect we will be popping a bottle before then. Can you see the fizz already ?! The recipe is here.Elderflower fizz.

The Fizz needs fairly rapid consumption so, for longer keeping, we made Elderflower Cordial. This was made with wild elderflowers and just one pink head added for a hint of colour.

Elderflower cordial.

With an abundance of elderflowers to hand we also made some Elderflower Medicinal Vinegar according to the recipe in Rebecca Sullivan’s Natural Home Book (reviewed, here). It’s really just apple cider vinegar with flowers in it. I have no idea what this might be good for, other the just admiring the prettiness of it. On that account I insisted on adding a few rose petals.Elderflower medicinal vinegar.

It does make me feel better, just to look at it.

Aaah, just came to Fix You. I loved that last night. Great choice.

So. Gooseberries.

I wasn’t really keeping an eye on them, it’s been wet and I wasn’t in the garden for a few days and then, wham, all of a sudden, the bushes were hanging to the ground with the weight of the berries. A proper bumper crop. I donned a protective long-sleeved denim shirt (don’t approach a gooseberry bush without one, says the voice of experience), brought a chair over, and a cup of coffee and picked and topped and tailed for ages and ages.

Picking gooseberries.

Those bushes sure don’t part easily with their fruit. I was impaled by several award-worthy thorns for my efforts.IMG_7436

Worth it though. Someone asked me recently how I know when the gooseberries are ready. According to the oracle that is Darina Allen, they are ready to cook with when you see the elderflowers blooming. I think they are ready when you can see the seeds though the skin or, in this case, when the bush can’t hold them up any longer. Or, they are probably ready when they are big enough to block out the sun.

Gooseberry big enough to block out the sun.

I only picked from the first to crop of our three bushes but had something in the region of 8 lbs of fruit and more to come. Eeek.

Darina Allen. Forgotten Skills of Cooking.

My first 4lb of gooseberries went to make Elderflower Gooseberry Compote. I love faffing about with a bit of muslin. Makes me feel like I’ve wandered into the kitchen at Longbourn. The recipe is here.

Gooseberry compote.

A word of caution here: I doubled the recipe but later realised that I need not have doubled the quantity of water. The result was a compote that was definitely too watery. I strained off some of the excess syrup and put it to good use. Here’s my very complex recipe:

Just add gin.

Elderflower and gooseberry gin cocktail.

SO good.

Onwards and jamwards. The recipe for Elderflower and Gooseberry Jam is here. I think it is my favourite jam ever but I tend to have exactly that thought every time I make jam. I actually don’t eat much jam. When I treat myself to toast, I like to savour the salty butter, but this jam is incredible in place of raspberry jam in this coconut pudding.

Elderflower and gooseberry jam.

With a boost of confidence (doubtless from the cocktail), I embarked on Elderflower Fritters. Something that Darina Allen does consistently in her books is tell you that you CAN do things and make things and, since the woman simply brooks no argument, you do.

These look wildly impressive. Well, I think they do. Elderflower Fritters.

Other than having to heat a pan of oil which always makes me nervous (I don’t have, or want, a deep fat fryer), they are easy peasy to make.

The recipe is here.

One flower head per person would be an appropriate serving.

Elderflower Fritters with Gooseberry Compote and whipped cream.

I’m not going to tell you how many I ate.

We’re not far from London or Manchester. As it happens, my in-laws flew into London on Friday night. What happens there could happen here. Geographical and cultural proximity makes it all the more horrifying. The layers of immunity are, one by one, being stripped away. It gets scarier. And then you think, to be scared is to let them win. To be honest, I’m trying not to think about it.

Whatever happens, life goes on. Gooseberries ripen. Elderflowers wilt. All we can do, I think, is keep our chins up and keep living.

If you want your spine tingled, try this:

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I’m delighted to join in the celebration of all things glorious in the garden Old House in the Shires.

Oldhouseintheshires

26 thoughts on “Elderflower Profusion.

  1. Easy stuff first:
    I had no idea Horrible Histories had been made into tv shows. My 12-year-old son read (and loved) several of the books; I will have to see if this is something I can access in Canada. (This (history made fun) has made me think of The Magic School Bus (science made fun) … is The Magic School Bus something you’re familiar with and/or have access to in Ireland?)

    Gooseberries always remind me of my favourite aunt. She lives in Friesland, The Netherlands, and has an enormous garden, containing (among many other things) gooseberries. Thank you for causing me to think of her this morning.

    I’m not sure why the eating of FLOWERS seems so strange to me! Clearly, modern life and a childhood of way-too-much packaged and processed food have meant the loss of some very interesting culinary things. Your bottles and jars and your frying pan are beautiful, Lynda, and very inspirational!

    And now the hard stuff:
    My heart goes out to all of you in Europe. I have no words to express the sorrow and anger I feel over these events.
    xo Marian

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yum! I’d forgotten its Elder Flower time wth all the rain we’ve had today! I made Elderflower champagne one year and several bottles exploded in the garage as I think I was a bit over enthusiastic with the white wine vinegar! I need to try the jam and the fritters. I cried and cried at the concert last night….what a sad, sad time….

    Do you want to link this up to my new Linky? Celebrating all things glorious in the garden?
    https://oldhouseintheshires.com/2017/06/04/mygloriousgarden-linky-week-2/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Martin…. Sigh. Spine-tingling indeed. You have been busy. I still have a box of seville oranges at the back of the fridge from January. I kid you not. I’d like to live up the road from you so I could benefit from all this domestic goddessery. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that you know that when I am making jam, or whatever, it is only an excuse for not doing the thing that I really ought to be doing. Yesterday, I was searching under my bed for a teeny weeny tube of eye ointment that fell off the bedside table and discovered it, eventually, buried under a substantial covering of dust. Are there any genuine Domestic Goddesses out there? More importantly, are they sane?!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. what pretty concoctions you are making….almost to pretty to eat and drink……I did watch some of the concert in Manchester….so sad….but how wonderful A. Grande came back and gave back….someone in my family made elderflower wind….pretty sure it was on my mums side…..I never had the chance to taste it but I heard it was sweet….yummmm…kat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m delighted, Brigid. Thanks for reading and commenting. I do appreciate it! The fritters were sinfully good; do try them, if you can, before the season ends. If you have any space at all, gooseberries are the easiest thing in the world to grow.

      Like

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