With the hedgerows billowing under the weight of scented, frothy white elderflowers (Sambucus nigra), it’s obviously time to get cracking on a few brews of elderflower champagne and/or elderflower cordial.
However, in my ongoing search for foraged food ideas I’d recently come across an elderflower recipe that was an obvious variation on a traditional theme, brilliant in its simplicity, but that had never occurred to me before: Elderflower and lemon curd.
Yum! I could almost taste how good it would be … smooth, tangy, floral, creamy, citrusy, essence-of-the-beginning-of-summer!
It turns out that since Megan and Harry’s wedding cake reveal, lemon and elderflower combos are in vogue. You can, in fact, buy this upmarket curd from producers like The Bay Tree. I’ve no idea what that is like, but in any case, where would be the fun in purchasing it anyway? Besides, this way, you can make as much as you like and adjust the floral/fruit taste ratio to suit yourself.
Here is the recipe I used for my curd:
5 or 6 large heads of elderflower
4 fl oz/120 ml freshly squeeze lemon juice
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
A word about gathering the elderflowers – since I am looking to maximize the delicious scent of these flowers it is best to:
* Pick flowers in the morning.
* Avoid picking after rain, choose a dry, sunny (if possible) day.
* Choose fresh, newly opened flowers, full of pollen.
* Smell the flowers before picking, because not all flowers smell the same.
* Remove as much of the green stalk as is practical to avoid bitter tones creeping in.
* Shake the flowers gently to remove insects and other hedgerow debris (my elder is in a hawthorn hedge so is often covered in fallen petals)
1) Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice in a small pan over a low heat. Once achieved turn off heat and add elderflowers, stirring to mix completely. Then cover pan and leave the syrup to steep for a couple of hours.
Note: If you want to increase the citrus taste, include some grated lemon rind with the juice. I didn’t because I wanted the elderflowers to dominate the flavour in this first attempt. In subsequent batches I would probably be tempted to add a little rind.
2) For this next stage the curd needs to be slowly heated over simmering water, so use a Bain Marie or double boiler if you have one, else (like me) use a Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of simmering water. Strain the syrup into the bowl, squeezing out as much juice from the flowers as you can. Add the butter to the syrup and stir occasionally until melted. Then, using a small whisk or fork, stir in the beaten egg. Continue to gently, but thoroughly, whisk the mixture to avoid any areas sticking, until the mixture begins to thicken to a custard-like consistency.
3) Remove from heat and pour into sterilised jars. I use a collection of different sizes, partly because I am never sure about the quantity and partly since they are what I’ve saved over time. This recipe makes about 400ml I believe.
4) Seal and refrigerate until used. The curd keeps for roughly 2 weeks like this, but that is if you can make it last that long!
I tried some for breakfast, lathering the curd on sourdough toast … and it was delicious:
Next day we had it on scones, when I tried out the 3-ingredient scone recipe that is currently all the rage: Cheat’s Lemonade Scones (It makes incredibly light, moist scones)
They were heavenly.