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  • Elderberries


    My Frien's, one of the interesting things about hanging around life so long is the many things that can trigger interesting memories. On our trips in/out of Whooping Hollow ~ I have been watching a patch of elderberries, slowly ripen but impossible to reach,.

    Each time brought forth a memory from forty two years ago. It was a hot, muggy, late summer day on the Natchez Trace Parkway. I was on patrol, parked in the shade, set up with the radar ~ and finding few speed limit violators to break the monotony. I became fascinated by the abundance of ripe elderberries on the hillside above me. I was not far from the house and the patrol car carried a box of trash bags ~ in case we found one of the trash barrels overflowing. Rangers multitasked back then. So, between car stops, I gathered a huge bag full.

    I stopped by the house for lunch and proudly displayed the berries to Diana ~ who advised me, "I don't know what to do with them!"

    "I think they are just like blueberries. Dump them in the sink, strip them off the stems, crush them, and I will help you make jelly after work."

    I went back on patrol ~ returning some 4 hours later. Diana met me at the door.

    "What the hell?" Her arms were purple clear up to the elbows. Still being in my law enforcement persona ~ it took just a moment for me to assess the situation and reach a conclusion. Elderberries! Still being of Cajun ancestry I could not avoid commenting, "My! My! I did not know we were eating formal tonight. But, with the purple gloves I see we are."

    I thought it was hilarious back then. Diana thinks it is funny ~ today!

    With great humility, OK as much as a Coonass can muster, I helped with turning the purple (it is a beautiful shade) juice into jelly. Circumstance soon fortuitously intervened ~ the elderberry syrup refused to jell. Nothing to do but use it as syrup.

    My Frien's, blackberries and strawberries make far too good a jam. Blueberries are too tasty as an addition to salads and in baking. Diana and I found that elderberries make far better syrup than jelly. I will forego maple as a covering for my waffles.

    Transitioning from memory to reality ~ I related this incident to David and Sunnie. I continued with my desire to once again taste elderberry syrup. David mentioned that there were a lot of elderberries down behind the barn. This was an understatement. Not only were they numerous ~ they were plumper and juicier than I have ever seen. I decided to relive, at least partially, that rekindled memory. It was time to harvest.

    The reason for the above average production of berries soon became obvious. My appearance in their domain had attracted attention of the horses ~ who had provided the necessaries for such an abundance of berries. I thought all I had to do was avoid the fresh piles of necessaries! Harvesting elderberries is usually a quick and easy task. Unless your companion is alternately trying to nudge you further into the bushes, or grabbing your overalls and pulling you away, or snuffling at the back of your neck, or attempting to abscond with your walking staff, or chewing on the brim of your hat. In spite, of my admonitions that she was less than helpful ~ Circe insisted on supervising. However, alternating between rubbing her ears and picking berries ~ I managed to fill two of the tall kitchen garbage bags.

    The next step is the most labor intensive ~ separating berries from stems. About half way through I realized that banging the stems against the side of the sink helped. Still it took several hours to reduce my raw harvest to 3 gallons of berries.

    Then it really became interesting. I could not find our20th century recipe so I went the 21st century font of all knowledge. I typed in elderberry syrup recipe ~ and was rewarded with a cornucopia of entries. Each touting to be the best for extracting the health benefits. It seems that elderberry syrup is better known for cold and flu remedy, for its abundance of antioxidants and for boosting the immune system ~ more than for its wonderful flavor!

    The recipes I found were rather complicated. I decided to resort to a process I learned from my Grandmother for processing pear preserves. Put the fruit in a shallow baking pan, add a little water to avoid sticking, cover the whole thing with sugar until the fruit disappears and start reduction. Here I varied from Mammaw's recipe. She removed the fruit for the final step. I just kept boiling until the berries were floating and made up a bare scum on top of the syrup. This, filtered through cheese cloth, resulted in 3 quarts of elderberry syrup.

    I have invited David and Sunnie up for sourdough flapjacks and will send them home with elderberry syrup. I am headed now to revive my sponge and am looking forward to morning. Imagining thick slices of smoked bacon, pancakes smothered in the rewards of my last few days effort. All imaginings are not old!

    Life in Whooping Hollow is good!
    Elderberry 1.jpgHorse helper.JPGExtraction.JPG2 gallons.jpg3 quarts.JPG

  • #2
    Very nice. Many years ago I tried making elderberry jelly but even with added pectin, it did not set up. However, it did make a glorious syrup. Wonderful stuff! I haven't made it in a long time though. The flowering umbels can be collected, dipped in batter, and fried like fritters. Delish!
    Terry

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    • #3
      Look for an American-made product called Pomona's Universal Pectin. Made from American citrus peels. I'll bet you can make jelly out of water with that stuff.
      It's a 2-part preparation, everything is in a little flat box about the size of a deck of cards. I render my grape juice down to 2X strong, use PUP and I get a hard, almost brittle jelly.

      My partner uses it to make "Stop Light jelly." Layers of red, orange and green peppers in each jar, laced with garlic.
      Brian T

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      • #4
        If you won't get around to de-stemming the berries for more than a few hours, simply put the whole elderberry clusters into freezer bags or containers. Pack them in loosely so as not to crush any of the fruit. Seal tightly and freeze.

        If you will de-stem the elderberries the same day, spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze, uncovered for 1 to 2 hours.

        Either way, the next step is to de-stem the frozen elderberries. Once they are frozen solid they are quite easy to remove from the stems by hand. Discard the inedible stems.

        If you are working with a very large haul of elderberries, you may find that they start to thaw out quicker than you can de-stem them.

        To avoid this, simply work in smaller batches, only taking a few of the still-on-the-stem elderberry clusters out of the freezer at a time.

        Also helpful when you work with elderberries in quantity is returning the just-stemmed, still-frozen elderberries to the freezer quickly. If they have already thawed when you refreeze them, the result will be a big solid brick of fruit. If they are still frozen, the individual elderberries will stay loose in their containers or bags. That makes it easier to take out just what you need when you are ready to use them in a recipe.

        Freezer foods.....pies, pop cycles, fruit smoothies, and elderberry pancakes....yummy.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Robson Valley View Post
          Look for an American-made product called Pomona's Universal Pectin. Made from American citrus peels. I'll bet you can make jelly out of water with that stuff.
          It's a 2-part preparation, everything is in a little flat box about the size of a deck of cards. I render my grape juice down to 2X strong, use PUP and I get a hard, almost brittle jelly.

          My partner uses it to make "Stop Light jelly." Layers of red, orange and green peppers in each jar, laced with garlic.
          Actually I think I prefer the syrup. Every bit as good as maple syrup imo but much cheaper. And I love maple syrup. Hate the fake kind.
          Terry

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          • #6
            What kind of "syrup?" Carmelized high-fructose corn syrup with added color and flavorings? (aka Aunt Jemima?)
            Most commercial fruit syrups are at least 2X strong and they do not have to admit it.
            I'm talking about an American product that allows you to make the jelly of your choice out of just about any fruit you can name.

            By federal law, Canadian maple syrup must be 100% maple syrup. The fines are huge.
            The syrup is graded for color, clarity and taste (of course). #4 dark is really strong and the best to cook with.

            Then, if you're really smart, you buy birch syrup. Exquisite smokey taste. The center of the industry in Canada is
            Quesnel, British Columbia. No, not a push for friends in the business. Honest!

            The last time I juiced some of my grapes for drink and jelly, I used 90 lbs. Worked out just fine.
            Brian T

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            • #7
              Wine, make elderberry wine. A real treat on a cold evening.

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