“I’m bored”

It’s nearly 7am on our third day into summer break. I explain that it is impossible for you to be bored, you haven’t even brushed your teeth yet. Come back to me when your breath is a little sweeter.

We scamper downstairs to the kitchen and develop a new pancake recipe. We’re kind of on a pancake-a-day lark. I let him choose a flavour and he asks to try the chocolate version which he has been obsessing about for weeks. The same one I have been saying no to for weeks. While he goes outside to feed the dogs while I finely grate a carrot into the mix and pour batter onto the griddle and feel better about feeding my child chocolate pancakes for breakfast.

We sit at the table and eat. He gobbles two mahogany-coloured flapjacks while I carefully alternate spooning egg out of a cup with plunging crunchy toast soldiers into its gooey yolk. We slurp milk and coffee respectively. Yes, slurrrrp. It’s 7:44am.

In my best Fantastic Mr. Fox voice, I proudly proclaim “we shall go wild crafting today.” If I say we are going to clip elderflowers it won’t be as nearly exciting….the foraging adventure never wears off, but you gotta keep it fresh.

We pack up. I bring camera, bucket, shears. He brings a compass, my dad’s vintage binoculars, 3D glasses, and his dingy soccer ball.

I open the gate to one of our quiet grazing meadows which is enclosed by wild hedges teeming with flora. We see a row of hay bales all stacked up in a long row like one of those big tootsie rolls with segments. Bale jumping glee.

We find wild honeysuckle, comfrey, meadowsweet, and, of course elderflowers. Geoffrey looks for four leaf clovers while I get drunk on the beguiling fragrance of wild roses.


We near the elderflower hedge and hear cows lowing on the other side. They get louder. Through the thick hedge I swear I make out a black bull. Louder. A low warning moo. Louder again. We snip the musky vanilla coloured delicate flower heads that dangle like earrings from the elder branches and rush away…stopping only for a bouquet of honeysuckle blossoms.

Bale hopping.

Ball kicking.

Flower smelling.

Clover picking.

Elderflower clipping.

Honeysuckle sniffing.

Wild Crafting.


We arrive home and simultaneously prepare a batch of elderflower + wild honeysuckle cordial, supper, and a homemade greeting card for a loved one. I have to go on record as saying that there are very few edible flower flavours that I tolerate. As much as I could bathe in rose or orange blossom water, for me, the taste harkens of eating chapstick.


Elderflower and honeysuckle are different. Elderflower has a very distinct, almost muscat scent and the flavour is genuinely just on the right side of sweet. Honeysuckle has a fresh sugary tang that lingers in such a satisfying way. I had never sampled these amazing treats until I moved to Ireland and they have simply become a summer staple.


We wait 48 hours then prepare the jelly using a bit of our priceless cordial and save the rest. In Ireland, gelatin is “jelly.” If you are like me, you will order “jelly and ice cream” from copious amounts of kiddies menus when dining out. It goes together like oil and water, but that separation is addicting. Well, it is in our house anyway.


Elderflower + Honeysuckle Jelly
Feeds 4 hungry farmers

250ml of elderflower cordial ( I use this recipe using 1/2 elderflowers and 1/2 honeysuckle heads)
750ml of water
150g of caster sugar
6 gelatine leaves

1. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Remove from the water, squeezing out the excess water from the leaves
2. Place the caster sugar, half of the cordial and half of the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the gelatine leaves. Stir well to dissolve the gelatine
3. Add the remaining water and cordial, stir well and pour the mixture one large or two medium jelly molds.
4. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight until set.
5. Unmold and eat with scoops of ice cream.


Meadowsweet Ice Cream
Makes 1.5 pint

500ml double cream
250ml whole milk
135g sugar
Generous handful of wild meadowsweet flowers*

1. Combine cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour cream into a bowl and steep meadowsweet until cooled.
3. Pour cream and meadowsweet through a sieve into a clean bowl.
4. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
6. Store in an airtight container and freeze for an additional 2 hours.

*Make sure you have positively identified meadowsweet or any wild edibles. Also, From Wikipedia: About one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad,[3] in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

Slan Abhaile,


Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013.

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35 Responses to “Elderflower + Wild Honeysuckle Jelly”

  1. mary wissman says:

    This was a comfort after having to try again with my seedless blackberry jelly. It was such work to strain the seeds out, and then to have the finished product be too thin 🙁 ugh! I became stubborn (maybe the irish came out in me!),….(or should I say, I became highly motivated/determined!) opened the 12 4oz. jars, dumped them back into the pot to try again. I added more sugar, pectin, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Rolling boiled it, had my jars cleaned (again) and boiling themselves. Yes, success. Seedless, blackberry jelly – alas.

  2. What a fabulous post. I’d vowed not to make anymore elderflower cordial this year as last years batch was just too sugary tasting. But this sounded so delicious that I wandered out on tues to pick some of the last blossoms. It tastes gorgeous, and I had to make the jelly which is setting in the fridge as I write. Thank you.

  3. cristina says:

    how enchanting! 🙂

  4. Oh I love this post so much! I wish you were my mom. Beautiful. xo Stephanie

  5. Canal Cook says:

    What a beautiful recipe. For some reason, I never would have thought of using honeysuckle for cooking, only elderflower, strange now that I think of it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Kathryn says:

    So completely wonderful Imen, I love the pictures, the words and everything about this recipe.

  7. s says:

    Imen – oh my god – I feel so embarrassed that I haven’t visited your site recently – how beautiful is this new design? I LOVE it – congratulations. So pretty. And the post is lovely, too. Many congrats, my friend x s

  8. Niamh says:

    Another gorgeous post, Imen. Lovely writing and fabulous photographs. You make me wistful for my Irish childhood. I always used to proclaim boredom too. Boredom is so important for creativity, I am sad for children who can’t explore now as we used to, and as children in Ireland still clearly do x

    • imen says:

      Thank you SO much Niamh! I am trying to do as many engaging things as we can in the countryside, it’s not always easy, so thanks for reminding me of how much it is worth it (instead of playing video games etc). See you soon! x

  9. That ice cream is so beautiful. Really nice!

  10. An Cailín says:

    After reading this I am about ready to pack up and move over. Absolutely fantastic, thanks so much.
    Those hay bales look just like the ones I saw visiting my great-grandmother’s old farm as a little girl. I spent entire days just jumping down the line.

  11. Caítríona says:

    Beautiful Imen. I’m not sure I’d get away with passing off a foraging day as crafting! Counting down the days here until my champagne is ready, love elderflower. Completely agree though, most flowers taste like soap!

    • imen says:

      Thanks Caítríona, it worked! Soap is a better descriptor than chapstick I suppose…I wish I could love that rose-pistachio meringue but the flower puts me off! Good luck with your book sweetie. xx

  12. Mona Wise says:

    The photos – whilst fabulous, especially the bale jumping one –
    are almost not necessary because your words are beautifully vivid Imen.
    True storytelling – making us Irish proud ;0)

  13. Yes! This is so up my alley. Mourning the passing of the honeysuckle flowers…too soon! I wish they bloomed all summer….nay…all year! And what I wouldn’t give for elderflower…

    • imen says:

      Beth, I can’t believe Elder doesn’t grow in TN. You’ll just have to buy a tree. I took a leaf from your book when we were ensconced in wild honeysuckles and the fragrance was irresistably tempting! It’s gorgeous with elderflower. Happy Birthday hon, I shared your waffle cake on Twitter…you mind is incredible!!!!! xoxoxoxo

  14. This is so beautiful Imen!
    I love elderflower tea, I would love to try this recipe wow looks delicious

    • imen says:

      Thank you so much Rowaida, it was an amazing day out and we love the combination of elderflower with honeysuckle!! xx

  15. Dao says:

    how lucky to be able to pick these beautiful flowers in the surroundings.. I’ve been chasing elderflower in Paris and the 1st place I was told to look was at.. the cemetery… Well I was somehow reluctant.. 🙂 honeysuckle looks gorgeous, i didn’t know the purple variety. Must be really nice!:) thanks for the lovely post

    • imen says:

      This honeysuckle starts purple, goes to link and then coral and white….stunning. Totally wild. Thanks for your commment…I don’t think I would go looking in a cemetery either…if even in Paris! xx

  16. This post is so, so dreamy, Imen! I was already completely moony before even getting to the recipe. What a beautiful day!

  17. Clio says:

    Beautiful. We made a lot (a lot!) of elderflower ‘champagne’ and cordial last year, it is seriously delicious. We missed the flowers this year but I will definitely remember your honeysuckle version to try next time!

    • imen says:

      My friend, Caroline, who blogs at makes the same every year and every year I say I am going to do it…this year I hope she’ll save me a toast =) Thanks for your lovely message xx

  18. Ilke says:

    Wonderfully written. I felt like I was eating and slurping with you guys :))

    • imen says:

      Thank you Ilke, I feel like I’ve got my groove back!!!! Must nip into your blog and see what’s going on =) xx

  19. Krista says:

    Absolutely wonderful! 🙂 I love this so much. It’s like something from the pages of Brambley Hedge. 🙂

    • imen says:

      Can I just say that you are the best daymaker EVER Krista! Thanks for your always thoughtful, genuine comments. Now, I am coming to visit you at he farm in Oz!!!!!!!! You’ve had so many rambling adventures! You know there is an amazing historic storytelling group in Ireland called the Rambling House, have a look…… xx

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