Elderflowers are one of those fantastic yet often overlooked ingredient. They are far less popular in America than in Britain, where they the flowers are used culinarily and to make cordials, while the berries are incorporated into a wild array of recipes. The fritters seem to fit very well with the Reach, and Highgarden, where they have such bumper crops of fruits that they wouldn’t need to worry about nipping the berry crop in the bud.
I’m lucky enough this year to have my own elderflower bush, so of course I knew I would have to make something from it. I’ve battled a variety of insects throughout the spring to safeguard my crop, and the blossoms are right at their peak. I recalled a recipe I’d seen in the Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, one of my favorite historical cookbooks, for elderflower fritters. Done, and done.
The modern versions are aesthetically much prettier, in part because they keep their original shape, which is pretty photogenic. The batter is a variation on the one I used for the Apple Crisps, making a fritter that is light and crispy. The flavor is just slightly floral, and not unpleasant, even to one who doesn’t usually like floral-flavored things *guiltily raises hand*, while the sugar on top gives it a great little crunch.
The medieval version, I’m sorry to say, was a total flop. Granted, I tried to make them for the first time in a terrible hurry the day before leaving home for an overseas wedding, so the deck was somewhat stacked against them. But I’d been keen to try them since first reading the recipe. That recipe instructs one to scoop balls of the mixture into hot butter or lard, which leads to the first two problems: 1. the batter was far from scoopable, and 2. butter burns pretty easily, even when clarified. By the end, I didn’t have a single medieval fritter that was edible, but I could sense the hint of what they should have been. I’ll give it another try next year, or perhaps with dried elderflowers in the off-season.
Modern Elderflower Fritters
Cook’s Note: Bonus Points if you can get a hold of an elderflower cider, such as Angry Orchard makes! Also, try using smaller clusters of flowers for easier frying and eating.
- 1/2 bottle sparkling hard cider (6 fl. oz)
- pinch of dry yeast
- pinch of salt
- zest of 1/2 lemon or orange
- 1 cup flour
- 6 elderflower blossom clusters, or more, as desired
- oil for frying (I used canola)
- sugar, for sprinkling
Mix together all ingredients except the elderflowers and oil, tweaking as necessary, until you have a nice runny batter. Bring the oil up to a nice medium heat. Gently dip a cluster of elderflowers into the batter, holding the stem upright. You can wiggle it around until all the blossoms are covered. Let any excess batter drip off, then carefully lower the battered flower into the hot oil. You should be able to cook each fritter almost entirely on this side, although you may find flipping it to finish the top side is helpful. When the fritters are golden brown, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with some sugar, and enjoy!
Medieval Elderflower Fritters
Cook’s Notes: This recipe was a flop for me. I’ve included the list of ingredients in case you’d like to give it a go yourself! The instructions can be found on Google Books… I’d love to hear how yours turns out!
- 1 lb. creamy cheese
- 1 lb. ricotta
- 3 oz. breadcrumbs
- 4 oz. sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 oz. elderflower, soaked in milk