It's my favourite time of year now - partially because of the beautiful slow change of the colours of nature from vibrant greens to yellows, browns and reds, but also because nature supplies us with lots and lots of products that I can make into yummy stuff.
We'd been blackberrying from late July and made blackberry coulis, plenty of crumbles, blackberry jam, Crème de Mûre, etc.
And this year I finally tried out what I can do with elderberries! I had been making elderflower cordial and other delicious things with the dainty spring flowers for some years, but I can tell you that the effort it takes, is most certainly worth it, when it comes to the berries of that plant, too.
So we went out a few times to collect the ripe black little jewels as it takes a lot of them to make cordial, jelly, hedgerow ketchup, etc. Do NOT eat them raw as they're poisonous if not processed.
Taking the berries off the trees/shrubs is the easiest part of this venture (only ever take the really ripe black ones, the red and green ones are not fit for consumption!), the longest bit is to get them off their stalks (a fork is a great help here).
Thankfully they freeze well as I didn't always have time to make something out of them there and then.
Firstly I tried out making syrup and cordial and this is the simplest way to use them up and the least hasslesome.
The syrup tastes great over our Bircher Muesli in the morning, or over plain vanilla ice cream while the cordial is lovely with sparkling water for a refreshing vitamin C rich drink, or, as I've just discovered over the weekend, it's very yum mixed into your Gin & Tonic!
See this vibrant elderberry tart here? This is another great use for the syrup we found out. Some short crust pastry, ground almonds and a quick egg/Quark/cream mix sweetened only with the syrup make this yummy dessert in no time.
Another recipe I've tried out, is Hedgerow Ketchup, which is a mix of blackberries, crab apples, elderberries and hawthorn haws - full of Vitamin C all of these goodies - it's a really nice condiment with sausages, cheese or cooked meat (pork, turkey, venison), but a real faff to make. So be prepared ;)
The jelly was not as tricky to make, but you will need to use your arm muscles as you need to press the berries through a sieve to incorporate the fruit pulp in your preserve. It's worth the effort in my opinion as the honey like consistency together with the unique smell of the berries is absolutely mouthwateringly tasty, especially on my own home-baked bread or scones.
These berries are full of goodness and the high vitamin C content strengthens your immune system (not a bad idea in this funny year 2020 what with Covid-19 on the prowl?) and helps when you're down with a cold, too. It tastes so much better than cough syrup ;)
We might still try to convert some of the cordial into elderberry liqueur after the blackberry liqueur turned out so delectable. And I certainly will try to make more stuff in 2021 as I've heard of elderberry butter, a flavoursome spread.
Any other ideas you know of? Share them with me?