July 3, 2013

Back in Blog… still foraging, still cooking, still gardening…

by Ciaran Burke


Oh how time has flown… it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog on this site. Its not that I have lost interest in gardening,  foraging and cooking, I still vey much have a passion for blooms and food.

Over the last months I have been taking my foraging activities to a new degree and have started a new food business called NjAM Foods. utilizing nature’s bounty I have been busy developing a range of wild flower cordials, ketchups and jams.


This is an exciting venture. I travel around the quiet roads in our locality and harvest flowers from flowering currant, gorse, dandelion and lately elder. I love the idea of using the wild plants to produce a food product which is uniue and delicious and really captures a true taste of the Irish countryside. Apart from the harvesting, there is the cooking, bottling, labelling, marketing and deliveries, it takes quite a bit of work to convert a flower in the hedgerow to a product on the shelf of a shop, but it is a fun new challenge.


So far a number of outlets are stocking NjAM Foods products:

Cafe Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Dew C Fruit & Veg, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Kate’s Place, Oranmore Town Centre, Orenmore, Co. Galway

Brid Tiernan at the Carrick on Shannon, Longford and Boyle Farmers Markets


Brogans’s Health Food Store in Bioyle.

The products we have made include Beetroot ketchup, Carrot Ketchup and Beer Ketchup. The wild flower cordials include Elderflower, Gorse, Flowering Currant, Danelion and soon it will be time to pick meadowsweet blossoms.

I have also been making jams; gorse flower, elderflower and meadowsweet from the wild flowers. Pina Colada, Rose and Apple are a bit more unusal but we are also making rhubarb and Vvanilla and delicious strawberry jam.

For some of our clients we supply the products labelled specifically for our suppliers as we do for Kate’s Place and our gorse flower jam for Cafe Rua.


We have a website, a Facebook Page and Twitter account too…

Njam Facebook page

Njam on twitter

I have also been busy with our Scoodoos, ancient tree spirits helping to save the planet, and my one tree photogrpahy project

I have also had time to forage for dinner and have been using foraged wild plants to give a wild twist to a couple of indian recipes… next blog will feature Saag Nettle Panir… and it wont be 4 months, promise…

June 16, 2012

Respect Your Elders – Elderflower Cordial Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Elder flowers and foliage- cultivar selection

It’s wild. Its everywhere. Its elder flower –Sambucus nigra. In the month of June its flat flower heads whiten hedgerows and fields around Ireland. Outside my office window I can see the branches bob and sway with the breeze. Seedlings all too often appear in the garden, unwanted, in abundance. But I don’t mind, the elder flower is a handsome plant and it provides much pleasure, not only to look at, but for the taste buds too.

There are some really good garden varieties of the common elder. The dark leaved S. nigra ‘Black Beauty’ not only has dark seductive divided leaves but also bears beautiful pink flowers. Just like the wild one, it is vigorous and tough. If elders are pruned hard in the spring they re-grow with increased vigour and produce enlarged foliage, but flowers are absent. Dark leaved cultivars can be treated in this manner to produce excellent foliage plants. They provide interest to a herbaceous or mixed border. The finer leaved S. nigra ‘Black Lace’ is excellent when treated this way.

One of my favourite is the green cut leafed cultivar, S. nigra ‘Laciniata’. A beautiful textured plant with darker green foliage than the native species. The flowers are said to be bigger too, but I have been cutting our plants back each year. I moved one to a new position this Spring, this one I will leave to flower. Another with intriguing foliage is S. nigra ‘Marginata’, the leaves are edged with creamy white variegation. It produces flowers in the same way as the species.

The flowers will fade by mid-July and in the Autumn the dark purple berries hang in masses from the branches. Both the flowers and fruit can be made into a delicious cordial. The fruits can also be used for making wine and last year we used the fruits to make an autumn pudding, a recipe I got from an old book which also used sloes and blackberries. A closely related species is the North American S. canadensis. This flowers later in July and I have read that it can produce flowers over a longer period.We have one in a pot which we purchased as a small plant from Turku Botanical Gardens in Finland last summer. I plan on planting this in the garden in the next few days, the idea of being able to harvest elder flowers throughout the whole summer really appeals to me.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been cutting flower heads to make Elder Flower Cordial. if you have not tasted home made cordial, you are really missing out. Sweet and delicious, diluted with still or sparkling water, the taste of summer…

Elder flower cordial is very easy to make. Here is how!


  • 10 or 12 Bunches of cut flowers, freshly opened flowers are best.
  • 0.5 Kg (1lb) Fruisana fruit sugar
  • 3.0 L water (about 5.5 pint) of water
  • A lemon cut in four

Elder flowers and lemon


I use a  plastic food storage bucket

  1. Wash the elder flowers in cold water.
  2. Place the flower heads in the jar with the cut lemon
  3. Leave in a cool place for 48 hours so that the flavour of the elder infuses.
  4. In a saucepan heat the water and elder flowers, remove the lemon. (you can use the lemon separately to make lemonade)
  5. Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.
  6. Strain the fluid through a muslin cloth and fill into sterilized bottles
  7. Store in a cool dark place.

To enjoy the cordial dilute with water (still or sparkling) about 1 part cordial to 10 water or to taste. It is also great when added as a dash to apple juice.

Elder flower- Sambucus nigra

June 13, 2011


by Ciaran Burke


Despite the less than summery weather over the last while I do feel that summer has indeed arrived. The reason, the ederflowers are in blossom. Sambucus nigra, common elder, is a native shrub/small tree to Ireland and all throughout the countryside its creamy white flat heads are to be seen. Apart from its medicinal uses of which there are many, the flowers and fruits are a great source of food and tastiness.


Elder is a relatively un-used plant in modern day Ireland, which is a shame. In recent years there has been a growing fondnes for elderflower cordial, which is delicious and very easy to make. On Friday evening I made a litre of cordial which will be ready to use in a few days time.  -To see previous blog on how to make elderflower cordial click on the link near the bottom of the page.

I love the clear fresh taste of elder flower and have been of the opinion that there must be more ways to capture its taste apart from making cordial. On Saturday we had elderflower pancakes which were delicious. I will post a blog on how to make them soon. But to enjoy the flavour of elderflowers every morning would be a treat, a great way to exercise the taste buds at the start of each day. So my mind turned to jam, not literally, but thinking of how I could capture the uniqueness of the elderflower flavour in a fruit spread, free of sugar. This resulted is two jams, Strawberry & Elderflower and Elderflower & Apple.


The first of the two jams I made was Strawberry and Elderflower which is very tasty, a great success. The sweetness of the strawberry seduces your tounge with sweetness then the elder flower tingles it. I made a small batch with strawberries purchased from the farmer’s market in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. But, I wanted more elderflower, and decided to try making a jam with apple. The result is fabulous, perhaps my favourite jam ever! So here are the two recipes. I like to make sugar free jams. Instead of adding sugar I use apple juice concentrate. Although it works out more expensive I do like to eat lots of jam, so it is healthier.

When making jams have clean jars ready. We use old jam jars, washed in hot soapy water then dried thoroughly. Place in a cool oven and heat to 100 degrees Celcius, about twenty minutes at his temperature should sufficiently sterize the jars.



800g of strawnerries with green parts removed, large fruits were cut into halves.

8 heads of elderflowers.

360 ml of apple fruit juice concentrate

2 apples, peeled and chopped

Juice of one lemon.


  1. Tie the flowerheads from the elder into some muslin.
  2. Cook chopped apple in the apple juice concentrate with the lemon juice and the elderflowers in the muslin bag until the apple pieces are soft.  (about 10-15 minutes) Keep the heat low after it has started to bubble.
  3. Add the strawberries and continue cooking at a low heat until the fruit is soft. (about 20 minutes). Stir to make sure fruit does not stick or jam burn
  4. Mash up some of the strawberries to make a pulp, leave soft entire fruit.
  5. Turn up the heat so that the jam really bubbles. Stir occassionally.
  6. When jam has reduced and when you move a wooden spoon across the base of the pot and you hear a good sizzle, then the jam is ready.
  7. Spoon the jam into the jars, be careful, the jam is very hot, wear oven gloves. Clean the outside of the jars to remove any jam that you have spilled, use a clean damp cloth.
  8. Place lids on immediatley.



We have just used the last of the jam we made last october and they have kept well using this method.

ELDERFLOWER AND APPLE JAM (SUGAR FREE)– Possibly the tastiest jam in the world!!!



1      1.1Kg peeled and cored dessert apples (the weight after peeling and coring). Chop into small pieces.

2      11 heads of elderflowers

3      2 x 360ml bottle of apple juice concentrate

4      juice of one lemon



1      Place the elderflowers in a muslin cloth and tie to make a bag.

2      Put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook on a low heat until the apples are soft (15-20 Minutes). Make sure that the muslin cloth containing the elderflower is in the liquid.

3      Remove from the heat and using a hand blender, blend the apples until they are pulp.

4      Return to the cooker and cook on a higher heat. The jam will be ready in about 10 – 15 minutes.

5      Spoon into sterlized jars and cover jars with lids straight away.


Elderflower and apple jam is delicious on freash beread or toast. Also great with some yougurt too. Even if the summer weather does not live up to expectations, elderflower will always be a summer treat in June.

MAKE ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL (LINK) (from my other blog on


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