Friday, 26 August 2011

Elderberry Cordial, August 2011

Yes, elderberry cordial, in August no less!  Normally I'd expect to go berry picking in September, closer to my birthday (the equinox), but as we had our summer in April we are now experiencing one of the earliest autumns I can recall.  Not only have I been out picking elderberries and blackberries, but I have even picked a handful of sloes.  Usually one does not pick sloes until after the first frost so this is all completely topsy-turvy.  One should not be picking sloes on a muggy August afternoon during the tea break at a cricket match.  It's just plain wrong.

But hey, the berries are there ready to be picked and eaten or bottled.  I'm very glad to have the chance, as last year we were out of the country at berry-picking time, getting married in sunny California.  Last week Fruity and I went out on a truly dismal evening walk after work in our secret foraging spot.  It was absolutely pissing down with rain.  He gathered mostly blackberries and I filled a carrier bag with elderberries.  As usual I was wearing a dress so he had to help me collect some of the best bunches, which were on trees surrounded by seas of nettles.

Fruity also spotted a puffball mushroom which he brought home, and which his foraging book highly recommended but I was too chicken to try it.

SO.  Eldberry cordial.  Just about the easiest preserve to make, ever.  So easy even I can do it.  The basic recipe goes thusly:

Collect a big carrier bag of elder-berries.

Using the tines of a fork, strip the berries from the stems and place in a jam pan, large stockpot, cauldron, etc. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for a good half hour or so.  Strain the liquid through a muslin jam bag.  Really squeeze out all the liquid you can, twisting the bag if necessary.  Discard the seeds, stems, mashed up fruit etc.

Put the strained liquid back into the pan.  Add 1 pound of white sugar for every pint of juice, and a good 1/4 cup of whole cloves. 

Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes, making sure to stir it so the sugar dissolves at the beginning.

Allow the resulting syrup to cool, and then pour into sterilized jam jars or demijohns or what have you.  Try to get a few cloves in each jar if possible.  If any mold grows, throw out the whole jar.  Sealed jars will last a year if stored in a cool dark pantry.

Elderberry cordial is meant to be diluted in water like squash (or frozen concentrated orange juice, to you American readers) and can be drunk hot or cold.  Taken hot it is wonderful when you are sick. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm always too chicken to try the foraged mushrooms too.