Thursday, October 14, 2010


This year we're holding our first ever Elderberry Fest on Saturday, October 16. We've had Elderberry Fest in past years, but it was just me with Mike's help and we didn't call it a fest. But this year Nick and Hallie are coming from Seattle because they want to experience firsthand the making of elderberry jelly – from picking the berries to processing the juice to making the jelly. That I should be considered an expert in anything – let alone elderberries – is truly remarkable.

Mike and I were newlyweds when my dad gave us a jar of his fresh elderberry jelly. Mike was immediately hooked. That's the way with elderberry jelly: you either love it at first taste or you say, "Yeah? What's all the fuss about?" But Mike loved it and when my dad was gone, he would occasionally come home with elderberries for me to make into jelly. I had to learn the process by reading the jelly instructions, and even now I research and review. A few years ago, Sure-Jell dropped elderberry from its recipe list, but we can still find it at their online site.

And elderberry jelly (amongst other jellies) also makes Nick's eyes light up. We have quite a few elderberry bushes on or near our property and know of others in various nearby gullies, etc., and he and Hallie plan to prune some of them while they are here. The Fish and Game guy who came last year said he was surprised to see so many elderberry bushes because they usually don't survive in the agriculture country.

So, anyway, I'm getting ready for Elderberry Fest. I have checked my list at least twice:
Stock pot – check
Cheesecloth -- check
Candy thermometer -- check
Plenty of jelly jars – check (I hope it's enough)
Rings and lids -- check
Canner located and cleaned – check
Canning rack -- check
C&H Pure Cane Sugar (no Idaho beet sugar!) – check
4 boxes Sure-Jell – check
Many fresh lemons – check

The weekend's festivities will open with a tour of various local elderberry bushes seeking the fullest, most promising clumps of ripe berries, after which we will return to the house (time approximate) to clean and rake berries from clumps into the stock pot for processing of juice. Following that lesson, we will make jelly in earnest. I expect to make one batch of jelly without Sure-Jell in order to demonstrate "sheeting." After a productive afternoon, a friendly yet competitive game of Dominoes is tentatively scheduled for the evening.

In the event we can't find berries, I have prepared elderberry juice in the freezer. A little apple juice added to the elderberry increases natural pectin and tempers the strong flavor, so I also processed juice from apples picked off the old tree on the Senter property. Not wanting to waste the pulp, I then ran it through the food mill, sweetened it with sugar and added a cup of red hots. Some kind of good!

Oh -- and I almost forgot. Son Clint says he's coming to the farm Friday night to spent some time and share a couple of meals with us. His family also loves elderberry jelly, though Clint has not professed interest in actually making the stuff.

Photo: Nellie doesn't enjoy the hustle and bustle of housecleaning. She waited patiently in a sunny spot while Mike and I both ran vacuums. KW


Chris said...

What a fun weekend you have coming up! I know you'll have a wonderful time with lots of memories made and laughs shared.

Give Hallie a hug for me!

Hallie said...

I really don't know what this canner thing is. I'm pretty sure that we don't have one and didn't use such a thing for our blackberry jelly.

Looks like Nellie chose a patch of grass as far away from the house as possible without being in a field.

debdog42 said...

You need to offer us all "samples" of that jelly! HA-HA-HA!!!

Kathy said...

It is recommended that filled jelly jars be sealed in a hot water bath. I have not done that heretofore. Generally the jars seal as the jelly cools, but that is still considered a "soft" seal and not really good for preservation. So, I thought we'd give the "hot bath" thing a try.

Hallie said...

We poured hot water into the jars and then handled them with mitts to pour out the water and then fill with jelly. Perhaps we did it correctly after all.

Kathy said...

That's the way I do it, but I think we're supposed to take it a final step and let the jars cook in boiling water for 10 minutes or something.

I don't mind a soft seal myself and often just keep the jelly in the freezer, but I'd like to see how the hot water bath works.

Toni said...

I had to smile, Kathy, when reading about my son in your post. Nick told me that he helped with every step in the process. And I'm so glad that Nick and Hallie came over to help you. They stopped by here on their way home and left a jar of elderberry and a jar of blackberry jelly. Thank you very much!