Not to be trifled with
Gooseberries and elderflower make an unusual and delicious summer trifle, writes EUNICE POWER
GOOSEBERRY AND ELDER are great friends – often seen together in many different guises, be it jam, chutney, compotes, even vodka. In my garden the elder grows behind the gooseberry bush, both keeping a watchful eye on each others’ progress and then blossoming and ripening together in June, as orchestrated by mother nature.
My first encounter with gooseberries was picking them for my neighbours, who grew them on a small commercial basis.I grow my own gooseberries now and I love them, nothing can quite compare to their crisp tartness. Teamed with the delicacy of the fragrant elderflower blossom, the gooseberry is lifted to aromatic heights.
I make gallons of elderflower syrup which I use throughout the year as a cordial, a syrup for poaching gooseberries and for making elderflower blinis. Rumour has it that the cordial is a great cure for hangovers.
I recently catered for an opera at the magnificent Lismore Castle and offered trifle as dessert. The reaction was fantastic. Irish people, men in particular, love trifle and why wouldn’t they, with its decadent layers of sponge and custard, with fruit sandwiched in between, all finished off with a dollop of cream.
So unearth those crystal bowls – wedding gifts, golf prizes and family heirlooms – and start to trifle with trifle. Making a trifle isn’t an exact science and much depends on the size of your bowl.
You can buy readymade elderflower cordial, but I prefer to make my own.
20 heads of elderflower
1.8 kg granulated sugar, or caster sugar
1.2 litres water
2 lemons, sliced
75g citric acid
Shake the elderflowers to get rid of any lingering creepy crawlies and put them into a bucket with the sliced lemons. Put the sugar into a saucepan with the water and bring it up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the boiling syrup over the elderflowers and then stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin. Be careful not to push the syrup through the muslin, let it drip naturally, otherwise your syrup will be cloudy. Pour the liquid into sterilised glass bottles. (To sterilise the bottles wash them and let them dry out in the oven at 100 degrees/gas ¼. Allow them to cool down before use.) Screw on the lids and pop them into the cupboard ready to use.