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Features // Blog

How to Cook with Elderflower

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

NatashaLS

May 04, 2022
10 minutes to read

The heady aroma of elderflower is one of late spring’s most delicious treats. Read on for tips on how to forage for it, plus the best recipes for making the most of your seasonal haul, from elderflower cordial to showstopping bakes

Elderflower can be a wonderfully diverse ingredient, while its flavour is distinctive, it’s sweet and floral nature means it pairs well with a wealth of other flavours. Luckily in the UK, Elder Trees are abundant, meaning it’s highly likely you’ll be able to forage some elderflower for yourself. Just look out for the bursts of white flowers which should be blooming anytime now. Kate Cartwright at Burliegh Pottery, shares her top tips for foraging success

HOW TO FIND ELDERFLOWER

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Elderflower’s most recognisable element is its sprawling white flowers which look like a burst of small creamy petals. The tree itself will be small in size, often just a shrub. It is plentiful throughout the UK and often grows in woods, hedges or even in parks or on big streets.

However, before you even spot the flower, you may be able to smell it! Elderflower has a distinctive aroma which many liken to ‘the smell of summer’ – it should smell floral and creamy. If the flowers have a brown colour or smell musty, it’s best to leave that plant.

Lastly, be sure you’re not confusing elderflower with other similar looking plants like Pyracantha or Cow Parsley. If possible, take a photo of elderflower with you so you can compare. Remember that elderflowers grow from woody, leafy branches, have 5 rounded petals and yellow anthers.

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR ELDERFLOWER

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If you can, try to pick your elderflower in fair weather. The blooms will be packed with pollen and it’s this which gives the plant its signature taste. Poor weather can mean that the pollen has been washed or blown away, resulting in a less flavourful return. It’s also worth avoiding any elderflowers from beside road or railway lines as these can be tainted with fumes, instead try to wander farther afield for your crop. This is important as when you come to prepare your flowers, you shouldn’t wash them, as this will remove the aforementioned pollen.


Instead, pick off any bugs then trim the blossoms into a container ensuring you gather any pollen that falls away. Discard the stems. It’s best to use elderflower right away, but if you do need to store it, place your flowers in a paper bag and keep in a cool, dry place.

HOW TO COOK WITH ELDERFLOWER

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Elderflower Champagne is the perfect, elegant use for these flowers. To make a batch of your own you’ll need sugar, lemons, and some white wine vinegar.

A simple recipe can be found from River Cottage requiring only basic equipment and some appropriate bottles of choice, just make sure these have a cork or stopper to create that fizz! This recipe requires a little patience as you’ll need to wait at least a week before your batch is ready. If you plan on storing your champagne, you may need to pop the lid occasionally to release excess pressure from building up. Once ready, the drink makes a perfect garden party tipple, ideal for sharing with friends!

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Elderflower Fritters. This recipe is much simpler than it sounds. All you need is flour, baking powder, icing sugar and sparkling water.

Simply mix the first three ingredients together then add your sparkling water. Aim for a thick texture that is still a little runny. Once ready, dip in your elderflower heads then add to a pan of hot, but not smoking, oil. The fritters should turn golden brown and be ready to remove in under a minute. Once ready, remove and leave to dry on kitchen paper, then dust in icing sugar or serve with a drizzle of honey. For a more adventurous taste, swap out the sparkling water for beer or ginger beer for a different twist.

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Sorbet is a simple and versatile way to use your elderflowers. Bring 2 parts water and 1 parts sugar to a boil, add in your ingredients, simmer, cool for at least 1 hour, leave to infuse, strain, then pour into containers to freeze.

The best thing about creating sorbet is that you can experiment with flavours. Some great options to add to your elderflower include lemon, gin, strawberry, or rhubarb. A perfect cooling dessert for summer that’s easy to make, store and enjoy. Top with fresh fruit, biscuits, or add to sparkling wine for a simple, yet elegant, cocktail.

Gill Meller’s Strawberry, Lemon & Elderflower Meringue

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Fresh elderflower and strawberries is a lovely, quintessential companionship, but there’s only a small window in which to get these two seasonal delights together. The elderflowers will disappear long before the strawberries. Happily, while the elder’s in bloom, you can pick the flowers and bottle the essence by way of a cordial so that you can enjoy this fragrant combination throughout summer, or for as long as the strawberries last.

Elderflower, Orange & Passion Fruit Layer Cake

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The combination of orange and passionfruit makes this cake wonderfully tangy, while the elderflower adds a subtly floral flavour. This cake is very moist and keeps well if baked a day or two in advance

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