|Farmyard from south field|
Mike and I were hiking behind the farmhouse (he called it bird-hunting) on Saturday (Nov. 10), when we were surprised to see lovely clumps of elderberries still clinging to the branches of the bushes, now mostly bare of leaves. I could tell that Mike wanted me to make more jelly. He suggested I return to the farmyard for the picking equipment, but I explained that I would be unable to accomplish the picking by myself. The accessibility of the berries is deceptive. Once you find solid footing under the bush, the berries are very high. And you know how it is – the best fruit is always at the very top of the tree.
I did go back to the house, though, and took the interior photos. As soon as Mike returned, we took a bucket and our hook and headed back to the elderberry bushes. I let him negotiate the bank while I stayed above on the edge of the field. The ground had thawed enough to be muddy and slick, and as it was, I slipped and nearly fell. Mike pulled the branches down with the hook and tugged at the berry clumps, catching many of them in the bucket.
We were back at the town house by early afternoon. Now, I consider just the trip to the farm and back enough for one day, but I dutifully set to work removing stems and cleaning the berries. We estimated we had about ten pounds of berries in the bucket, which translated to six quarts cleaned and ready to cook, and from that I got 8+ cups of juice – enough for two batches of straight elderberry jelly and a third of elder/apple.
I put off making the jelly until Sunday. I have to be especially organized when I make jelly by myself. I also lack the proper equipment here in town, but I made do with one stock pot and a Dutch oven. I only burned myself twice and broke one jar as I lowered it into the stock pot for processing. I suspect it was cracked. The process stopped as I cleaned the kettle, took care of the broken glass, and then re-heated the water.
In the end, I had 14 half-pint jars of elderberry jelly. The third batch I stretched with plain old Safeway apple juice and it turned out fine. With the October batches, I added apple juice concentrate, and the set was firmer than I like.
I’m always saying that I have no idea what I did the last time, and that's not a problem for me. I just muddle through again. But I guess it bothers Mike that I'm not more systematic, and he insisted that this time I make notes on my recipe sheet before filing it.
As I wiped down the stove and kitchen cabinets the next day, I could hear my mother say, "You have to clean the kitchen after you make jelly. It splashes everywhere." KW