|Mike and Bess|
Hallie is coming this weekend for our annual Elderberry Fest, wherein we pick elderberries and make jelly. My dad used to make elderberry jelly from time to time, and Mike loved it at first taste. Elderberries have a strong flavor, though, and some people don’t care for the jelly. Some people say it’s not enough different from grape jelly to warrant the work. And the process is work.
The elderberries begin to turn blue in August, and we’re tempted to think they’re ripe and we should pick them. This year I insisted we wait, even if we risked not having berries in October. I’m happy to report that luscious clumps of berries still hang from elderberry bushes everywhere. Not only that, but I don’t recall ever working with such juicy berries.
|Do you see the deer?|
I announced yesterday that I planned to pick elderberries today. Well, in the early morning hours, it commenced to rain quite steadily for several hours. Frankly, I would have given up the picking, but Mike doesn’t change plans well, and at 9:00 a.m. he said that if we were going to pick, we should do it, as it would likely rain again later.
So, I got dressed and we put on our rubber boots and hiked west (behind the house). I selected a bush loaded with berries and he and I commenced to pick. Bess checked under the bushes, then speaking to no one, she apologetically crept off toward the house. I guess the pillow on the porch was calling her name.
Over the years we’ve learned a thing or two about making the elderberry process easier. For instance, we used to drop the clumps of berries into the buckets, bring them back to the house, and someone would sit outside painstakingly removing stems and twigs from the berries -- a long and boring process. A few years ago, Mike said, “Enough of this,” and began to just slip the berries from the twigs right there in the field. So, as we picked we removed the berries from the twigs so that we came back to the house about an hour later with a gallon and a half of berries ready to be washed and cooked.
About 10 years ago, elderberries disappeared from the pectin recipe sheets, but this year I found them mentioned with the blackberries in the “cooked jelly” recipes of MCP pectin. To make the juice, I cooked about 12 cups of berries with ½ cup of water. (The recipe said one cup, but I cut back because the berries were juicy and also wet from washing.)
So that’s it! I now have three quarts of elderberry juice in the fridge waiting to become tasty jelly. KW
[I didn’t take the camera with me when we picked the berries because 1) I had no way to care for it in the wet environs of the bushes and 2) I’m unsteady on my feet in uneven terrain. So, I’m posting a few pictures from October 1 which I overlooked.]