The discussion amongst fellow food lovers in Ireland has been split right down the middle over the past fortnight. On one side the excitement from those who love to forage and make things with elderflower was evident. On the other hand I spotted more than a few “foodies” lament that they didn’t like the stuff and can’t stand the foraging movement.
Elderflower, according to more than one, is the new wild garlic. En vogue on food blogs and finding it’s pesky way into seasonal menus nationwide.
Foraging was always something we did as a family when I was younger. Certainly it was mainly blackberries in the Autumn but I would be more than familiar with crab apples, damsons, wild garlic and of course that elderflower.
I suppose I’ve taken some of this knowledge for granted. I naively assumed that most people think nothing of parking the car up on the verge beside a field in the middle of nowhere so that you can hare across and fill your pockets with chestnuts or blackberries. Apparently most don’t.
That’s where this A5, pocket sized book from Evan Doyle (Macreddin Village and Director of The Organic Trust) and Biddy White Lennon (Food Writer, Journalist and more) fills the gap. I was expecting a cookbook but it’s more a starting point for going foraging yourself.
I like the way the book flows through the seasons. You’re not going to find items by alphabetical order, more so by seasonal and harvesting order which is extremely handy. The concise photographs of ripe ingredients makes the book a point of reference that you’ll return to again and again.
The weather being so cold at the start of the year means that elderflowers, normally in season until the end of June, are just about coming to the end of their season now. So I decided to make “Elderflower Champagne” and adapted the recipe in the book to slightly smaller quantities as I’d been quite selective as to which heads I chose to use.
If you intend to forage I’d highly recommend you acquire this book, or another informed source as a fellow learned blogger (who shall remain nameless) recently discovered when they made cowslip cordial by accident.
Elderflower Champagne (Adapted from Wild Food), yields approx 4 litres
- 7 heads of fresh wild elderflowers
- 3 litres of cold water
- 2 lemons (it’s essential that they are organic as you will be using the whole lemon)
- 500g sugar
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Dissolve the sugar in a small amount of warm water until you get a syrup. Leave to cool – I did this several hours before hand.
Take a HUGE pot, peel the lemons into the pot, then juice them into the pot. Finally turn the empty lemons in. Pour in the cold water, vinegar and sugar syrup. Stir well.
Shake off the elderflower gently to make sure there are no insects and rinse under cold water. Immerse them completely in the liquid in the pot. Stir.
Cover the pot with a lid and a tea towel and put in a cool, dark place. Stir once a day for 4 days.
After 4 days strain the solids off using a muslin cloth. I did this twice to make sure I got any last sediment, then decant into bottles.
Leave the bottles in a dark place for 4 weeks before drinking. Slightly unscrew all the caps after 1 week to make sure they don’t get too fizzy.
Disclosure: The O’Brien Press provided me with a copy for the purposes of a review of Wild Food. My opinions are my own and I am not paid to give them.