A few weeks ago the hedges around the farm were filled with the bright white flowers of the blackthorn. As they faded, the hawthorn flowers came out, covering the branches in a white blanket and now that they’ve browned and dropped they’ve been succeeded by the delicate pinks and whites of the wild rose and the large, saucer like flowers of the elder bushes. We don’t have much elder around here, mainly because Bill has an aversion to it and cuts down any that he sees, so I’ve kept very quiet about the bush that has sprung in the garden and hope that he won’t notice. According to folklore, it may also keep the devil away.
In the brief spell of sunshine between the showers this weekend, I managed to pick some elderflowers from around the pond in Grove Field to make Elderflower Fizz, as I do every year and some Elderflower Hand Cream that is supposed to soften and whiten hands. The hand cream hasn’t been a total success as it’s an unappealing grungy green colour and leaves my hands a little tacky.
I also made a few jars of Elderflower Syrup, which I’ve frozen to use later in the year. It can be mixed three parts syrup to one part lemon juice and diluted with water to make a refreshingly fragrant cordial, poured over fruit salad (it marries particularly well with melon), makes a delicate summery jelly or syllabub …
Elderflower Syrup Recipe
Make the syrup by putting 600g granulated sugar into a saucepan with 600ml of cold water (sometimes I add the peel of a lemon too), heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved and then boil for 1 minute. Leave to cool.
Pick the elderflowers on a dry day, leaving any flowers that are beginning to turn brown, shake out any insects that may be lurking and snip off the thick green stems until you have about a pint of loosely packed flowers.
Tip the flowers into the cooled syrup and set to one side for a day, giving it a good stir every so often.
After 24 hours your liquid should be a pale lemony green colour so sieve out the flowers and put the elderflower infused syrup into suitable containers. Don’t be tempted to keep the flowers in the liquid for any longer than 2 days as the flowery taste and smell gets overtaken by slightly fetid overtones.
The syrup will keep in the fridge for a few weeks or for longer in the freezer. Alternatively pour into sterilised bottles and heat treat so that you can keep it for months.