Well the elders are in bloom again, and hedgerows all over froth and foam with the delicate white unbrels, almost like the spring tides coming in. This year is a bit later than ususal, due to the length of the Northern hemisphere winter, but now the sunshine has returned, and naure is more than making up for her long sleep.
Elder is really abundant where I live, so there is always plenty to go around during the flowering and fruiting seasons; for us foragers and for the birds.
Elderflowers are not just for the sweet things in life, they are also great in salads, and I have heard of sauces to go with meat. An elderflower sauce is on my list of Things I Want To Experiment With. Like most food bloggers, I guess, I have several such lists – electronically, on paper and in my head. A colleague of mine recently found them in some notes I had taken as part of a work trip, and seemed surprised that I would also be making lists of flavours in between meetings.
As well as the flavours that exist on my lists, or go around in my head, I have a number of different or unusual flavours in my kitchen. For example, I am never without vinegars of all kinds of flavours – raspberry, blackberry, tarragon, rosemary; I even have coconut vinegar since a Filipina friend introduced me to it when she kindly gave me her adobo recipe.
For me, then, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think that elderflower vinegar would be a great way to keep hold of the elderflower season for just a little bit longer, but without all the sugar.
Try to pick elderflowers on a dry day, in the morning. There will be more pollen and nectar in them, which makes the flavour more intense.
This vinegar is good with salads. I am currently embarking on the 5:2 regimen, because my need to develop great food for this blog was beginning to have a toll on my waistline. I have found that the addition of a few herbs to some of this vinegar is a good way to dress a slad without the need for oil.
You can make marinades with it, and even a couple of drops in some water gives a nice flavour, that is not too sweet.
Recipe: Elderflower Vinegar
40 g elderflowers
500 ml white wine vinegar
Try to pick the flowers in the morning after a dry spell, in order to maximise the pollen and the flavour.
Remove the elderflowers from the stalks by pulling a fork through the stalks in the diretion of the flowers. You don’t have to be too fussy, as long as you have removed the largest stalks.
Steep the elderflowers in the vinegar, in a non-metallic container or bowl. Cover with a tea towel, and set aside for a few days.
Whenever you remember, give the flowers a stir.
After three days to a week, your vinegar should have reached the strength of flavour that you want.
Bottle up into sterilised bottles. This vinegar will keep well in a cupboard. I cannot resist this fragrant flavour, so the trouble is making it last!