19 May 2014

Elderflower Sorbet

The elder is a slightly scrubby tree commonly found in hedgerows and on waste ground. In late spring it is covered in white flower heads. The flowers have a pleasant taste, and are often used to make wine and cordial. They can also be used to flavour cakes, jellies, ice creams and sorbets.

In the last few weeks I've noticed an abundance of elderflowers growing along the side of railway cuttings. However, living in London it's often difficult to find the flowers growing where they can easily be picked. A weekend trip to visit my parents gave me the opportunity to pick some flowers while walking in the countryside. I decided to make some sorbet with them. The sorbet has a pleasant slightly gooseberry like flavour, and makes a great palate cleansing dessert.

If you want to go out and pick your own elderflowers, resist the temptation to pick them from the side of busy roads, where they're likely to be covered in dust and pollutants. Also give the flowers a quick smell before you pick them. They should have a pleasant floral gooseberry smell. A small number of trees that produce unpleasant tasting elderflowers - don't pick any that smell of cat pee!

Elderflower sorbet recipe

120g caster sugar
800ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
Approx 10 good-sized elderflowers

Ice cream churner
Sugar thermometer 


  • In a pan, add the water and sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once dissolved, turn up the heat and heat rapidly until it reaches 85C.
  • Take off the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Meanwhile, put the elderflowers into a bowl or large jug. Pour the sugar syrup over the elderflowers and add the lemon juice.
  • Cool the mixture rapidly. The best way to do this in a domestic kitchen is to put the jug or bowl of syrup in a bowl of iced water. (Cooling the mixture rapidly prevents the build-up of bacteria).  
The syrup mixture infusing

  • Once at room temperature, cover the mixture with clingfilm, and put it in a fridge for about 24 hours to allow the flavours to infuse.
  • Once the syrup has infused, strain it through a sieve, squeezing the flowers to extract as much liquid as possible. 
  • Put the liquid in the ice cream churner and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, put the mixture in the freezer.
  • (If you don't have an ice cream churner, you can make the sorbet by pouring it into a shallow tray, putting the tray in the freezer for an hour. After an hour, give the mixture a good mix. Repeat the freezing/mixing process over a six hour period, by which time you should have sorbet).


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