Preserve the summer with pickled elderflower

JP McMahon: Pickling and preserving gives you the choice of using with savoury or sweet dishes

Finally, the elderflower are in bloom. Whatever anyone wants to say about summer in Ireland beginning at the start of May, for me, summer arrives when the first blossom of elderflower appears. This is not to say there will not be rain, but at least there will be warmer days ahead.

There is a tree down the road from my house in Galway. For the past few weeks, I have been keeping an eye out when I walked past it. Yesterday, I witnessed the first flourish of a few flowers. Not enough to pick yet, but enough to get excited about. Enough to know that summer has finally arrived.

My favourite way to prepare elderflowers is either to pickle them or to preserve them in sugar syrup. In this way, you have a choice to use them with either savoury or sweet dishes.

The pickling is simple: bring 300ml of white wine vinegar, 300ml of water and 100g of sugar to the boil. Remove from the heat and pour over about 10 heads of elderflower. Once cold, they are ready to use. For the sweet version: bring a kilo of sugar and a litre of water to the boil. Repeat the same process as above, pouring over the elderflower heads and cooling. The elderflower syrup can be quickly turned into a wonderful cordial by adding sparkling water and lemon. The syrup and pickles will keep in the fridge for months

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Whipped goat’s cheese with pickled carrots and elderflower

Take 200g of soft goat's cheese or curd (I like to use either Galway Goat Farm or St Tola) and place in a bowl with 30ml of crème fraiche and 30ml cream. Whip until smooth and season with sea salt. Bring the pickling liquor to the boil (as above). However, instead of pouring over the elderflower, add some thinly sliced carrots strips. Simmer for a few minutes  and then add the elderflower. Allow to cool.

Remove the pickled carrots and dress with cold pressed rapeseed oil and sea salt. Place the goat’s cheese, carrots and elderflowers in three separate bowls and serve with crackers or sourdough.