Sunday, August 31, 2008

MAKING ELDERBERRY JELLY


First of all, if you think you can make elderberry jelly within an hour, think again. Clear your schedule for half a day.

It truly is best if you free your kitchen of all clutter before beginning. Jelly making is messy. (Do as I say – not as I do.)

Take your bucket of elderberries and dump them into a colander in the sink. Wash the berries thoroughly. You should definitely remove any bugs you find.

Get your 6-quart pot. (For years I made jelly in a 3-quart pot because that was all I had. It can be done but you have to watch your mixtures closely.) Elderberries grow in clusters. Removing them from their stems is tedious. I remove the largest stems and as many of the smaller ones as is practical.

Set the pot on the stove over high heat. A little water with the berries will start the juice flowing. They should cook for 15 or 20 minutes. Crushing the berries at this point is also helpful – if you have a potato masher.

Now that the berries are cooked, you need to strain them through cheesecloth or a jelly bag to be sure your jelly is free of berry pulp and seeds. I have neither at this time and have found cheesecloth to be marginally useful anyway. Making an online search – "how to make a jelly bag" – I discover others agree with me. Suggested substitutes are old pillowcases, old dishtowels, muslin, and panty hose -- reasonably clean. I love these folks! I find an old dishtowel in my rag bin which I fold to fit my colander. Somehow I manage to pour the cooked berries into the colander, rinse out the 6-quart pot, and then set the colander over the pot so that the juice will drip into it. (I don't remember how I managed that feat but I'm sure the transfer involved another bowl / pan / pitcher.)

Some people might allow a lot of time – like a whole day – for the juice to drip from the berries. I was anxious to get on with the process, which may be why I struggle with a lot of things these days. In the initial dripping I had two and a half cups but needed three. Apple juice is great for stretching the juice, but I don't have any. I do, however, have some Gala apples on hand, so I got out the juicer and juiced three apples. More mess. Grabbing my Pyrex measuring cup, I heated the apple juice in the microwave and poured it over the berries in the colander. Folding the dishtowel over the berries, I began to squeeze the juice out of my makeshift bag. Eventually the old fibers gave way and the "bag" burst open. Oh well – I have enough juice and to spare now. I managed to measure the juice and then pour it back into the pot for the actual cooking process.

Now, after an hour and a half of work, I am ready to begin the actual jelly making. "Read all instructions before beginning," state the instructions that come with the Sure-Jel. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, actually I did read them – and read them again – and read them again. It looks as though I must boil the juice with the pectin and then again after the sugar is added, stirring constantly, while simultaneously preparing the jars with hot water. "I can do that," I say to myself. Oh – and I need the juice of an actual lemon. Fortunately I have one, so I find Ina's glass lemon juicer and juice the lemon. Yet another dish to wash. "Holy mackerel!" says Mike, coming upon a kitchen in disarray. He reaches for the camera.

Bottom line: Four and a half cups of sugar is added to the nasty-tasting three cups of juice, instantly transforming it into a tasty substance. Go figure! Hot jars were filled with the hot, sweet substance and that set up nicely. Would I do it again? Actually – I probably will. KW

4 comments:

chris miller said...

What a woman!!! Loved seeing the pictures, and I love your haircut!!

Kathy said...

Thanks, Chris. Did you notice in picture #2 -- right at the edge of the counter -- the little board with strawberry stemmer you gave me years ago? It's signed "Chris '80." I found it in my kitchen linen drawer where I stashed it when we began to move here. Mike hung it for me above the sink today. KW

Chuck said...

Hi, Kathy. The things you do to keep busy. You will be able to savor the fruits of your labors this winter. Joanne has been going to the church orchard to pick peaches for the cannery. She brings home about three buckets of culls each trip. We are now canning them. I hope this is the last batch. We must have about three or four dozen quarts, now. We have been eating them fresh, too, (and in pies, jam, cobbler, etc.). This is pretty inexpensive, because the peaches are free.
Chuck, the slave.

Kathy said...

Chuck the Slave -- how funny! You just come here and I'll put you to work in the elderberries. I guess fruit in season is a mixed blessing. The plum trees in the gully have no fruit this year. We hope to pick pears from the old pear tree that will be good enough for preserves if not drying. And I will probably buy at least one more box of pears to dry. KW