I really enjoy the flavours and the versatility of elder. It’s a tree that keeps giving throughout the year.
Starting with spring, when the elderflowers are extremely perfumed, they are perfect for infusing into vinegar and syrups. We also use the flowers in our custom gins and cordials. Their perfume signals to me, having grown up in the rural Suffolk, that summer is on the horizon. Currently, on the menu at Wilder, we are serving last year’s elderflower vinegar with our Pyefleet rock oysters from Colchester. It works great alongside the saltiness of the oyster water.
Once the flowers shed, comes the new growth of the elderberry fruits. If harvested before they are fully formed and whilst still green, they are almost caper-like. I like to treat these unripe fruits in a similar way as capers, brinning them in salt and finishing in a light pickle – they bring a touch of salinity and astringency to dishes, but still maintaining a floral hint of the flower that once they were. Again, the green elderberries are on the menu with smoked pork jowl, heritage carrot and sweet mustard – refreshing the dish and cutting through the unctuous.
Over the course of summer, if you haven’t stripped the tree of the new growth, it gives us the fully ripe elderberries. These are rich and taste of the hedgerows, long evenings and grape juice. I like to pick the berries when I see a fully loaded tree. I pickle, make jams and fermentations. They go amazingly alongside game and I use them a lot with the autumn birds.
The seasonality of ingredients and the flavours they give us is an ongoing source of inspiration throughout the year. It keeps my larder full and gives an unending inspiration to my dishes.
Richard McLellan, Wilder (London, United Kingdom)