Friday 30 May 2014

Elderflower fail (but a nice walk, nonetheless)

It smells of elderflower. It tastes of no elderflower. It tastes of sugar that was once, maybe, left close to an elderflower tree for a few minutes. I don't understand.

Elderflowers in the wild. The flower of the Elder apparently.
Elderflowers. Tamed. Look at how they
all sit there nicely, not making a fuss.
I was all set to make elderflower syrup, and thereafter, cordial, jelly, granita. Following a recent trip to Wilks Restaurant in Bristol, I was going to make a spiced orange jelly with apple and pears and a dressing of elderflower ice. I imagined serried, stoppered bottles of pale golden loveliness in my utility room - yielding forgotten summer sunshine in the autumn months. It is not to be. I have failed.

A few weeks ago, I appealed to the good burghers of LYDS for the locations of good elderflower trees (thank you Anna and Roger). So last bank holiday Monday, Fabian (eldest son) and I toured EN2 and then the Woodcraft Wild Space in Winchmore Hill (where Fabian does volunteer conservation work) with bags and scissors. We only took a few from each tree and only from plants far away from roads. We came back with quite a haul. It was, of course, only on our return that I noticed... at the back of our garden... far away from any road... yup!

This is Fabian's 'I know you have a new telephoto lens Dad but please don't take any more photos of me' look. 
You'll also notice he's not running with those scissors. Safety first!
I'd read many recipes; all very simple: water, sugar, elderflower, lemon. Some mentioned adding citric acid powder but that seemed to be only as a preservative so I eschewed that. I made a simple syrup of sugar and water, adding lemon zest for, well, zestiness and lemon juice for acidity. I let this cool to blood heat. I added at least 50 full heads of elderflower. This was left to steep for two days.

Before adding elderflower. That yellow stuff is lemon peel not elderflower. Elderflowers look more like flowers.

After adding elderflower. You see all those things that look like flowers. That's elderflower that it.
Nothing. Nada. Zlich. Niente. 

Perhaps that citric acid has some other function? Do I need some other solvent aid. Was there too much sugar and I buggered up the osmotic gradient? I've now read that you should pick your flowers on a warm, bright day. Makes sense. You shouldn't pick them on an overcast, damp day. We gathered ours on an English bank holiday. Take a wild guess.

I'm not giving up though. I'm going to wait for a warm, bright day and pick more flowers, then use those in my faintly tasting sweet water. I'll report more then.

Fabian's elderflower vodka however (quick recipe: take vodka, add elderflowers) DOES taste of elderflower. Perhaps I'll take some solace there.

And this is an entirely irrelevant picture of a zested orange. I just think it looks cool.
Did I mention I have a new lens for my camera?

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