Elderberries

Available now and for the next few months. A seasonal and generally free treat.

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Full of vitamin C these little lovely are nearing the end of their season, so get in quick.
As well as there great flavour in jams and cordials, they are high in antioxidants, immune boosters and can improve heart health. So its a bit of a foragers super fruit really.

Elderberry has been used to help aid coughs and colds for donkey’s years and recent studies have seen it used in cancer prevention drugs as well as aids medicine.

You can use the flowers to make wine and cordials in spring/summer and use the berries to make jams and juices in the winter, they also spruce up a general apple crumble or fruit compote, yummy. What a perfect addition to your Winter food groups, delicious and great for the flu season, winner!

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You can find elderberry trees all around your local gardens and woods, but remember a couple of things.

Make sure what your picking are elderberries and not something poisonous and if you are foraging for free ask permission form the garden;s owner. Also if someone does let you pick from their garden I always think its nice to give them a jar of the finished products as a thank you.

Now a few ways to use them…..

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hedgerow-1974hedgerow-1968Elderberry and Apple Crumble.
A great way of mixing elderberries into an every day dish.

To serve 4-6

x 6-7 medium general apples, I like to use a mix of eaters and cookers, the sweet eating apples reduce the amount of sugar added.
x 200 g Elderberries, picked from stem and washed
x 100 g sugar
x 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

For crumble top
x 75 g butter cold and cubed
x 150 g plain flour
x 50 g sugar, brown is nice but granulated white is fine
x 4 biscuits  optional, but yummy! I use either the cow ones or the ones from a city in France, you know what i mean.

First peel apples and slice, add to a pan with a little butter, cook off for 5  minutes on low heat, add the elderberries, vanilla, sugar and enough water to half cover fruit.
Cook on medium for about 5-10 minutes until the apples have softened and the elderberries have released their juice making a yummy purple compote.
Cool slightly.

In a bowl, add the cubed butter and flour  rub between fingers until you have small breadcrumbs, use light rubbing technique, which is rolling the butter and flour between fingers towards the palms of your hand.

add sugar and rub again until mixed, then crush biscuits into very small pieces and add to mix.

In a baking dish line the bottom with the compote apple mix, then add crumble on top.

Bake in a 190 degree oven for around 15 minutes until the crumble is golden.

Eat with home made custard or vanilla ice cream. Yum,
The biscuits on top give the crumble added sweetness for those with a sweet tooth.
For a healthier option add some flaked almonds or oats to the mix and drizzle with honey before baking.

Elderberry Jam

The lovely dark almost black berries offer a wonderful alternative jam. Some people say they have a bitter after-taste  but I love the flavour and have never tasted the bitterness with this recipe.

Ingredients
x 600 g Elderberries, picked from stalks
x 600 g granulated, caster, jam sugar ( I use plain old granulated silver spoon)
x 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, good quality, not essence, optional, but just lovely
enough water to just cover fruit, approx 200ml

Put all ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil. simmer, then boil, then simmer, then boil, until setting point is reached.

Setting point in here is around 107 degrees, but I use the method of putting a saucer in the fridge before starting. Once the mixture has boiled up twice, spoon a small amount onto the cold saucer, if after 20 seconds there is a firm skin on the jam when pushing your finger through the jam is ready. If not keep boiling and simmering until this happens, remember to not let the mixture burn or boil dry.

A large pan should be used as the mixture does bubble and froth up the pan, so please be careful of burning and spillages. Nothing burns like scalding sticky jam, ouch!

Once setting point is reached, pot in sterilized jars and cool. enjoy yourself or give as gift.

I love mine on buttered crumpets with tea.

Elderberry Vodka

A warming, sweet tipple- great with champagne. A elderberry twist on a Kir Royale

x 1kg of elderberries, frozen if possible.
x 500g caster sugar.
x 4 litres of Vodka- I use fairly inexpensive plonk as it;s just a platform for the berry flavour.

In a demijohn put  the berries, sugar and vodka.

Leave in a dark place for a week, strain through muslin into another demijohn or into presentation bottles. seal and enjoy.

Tip- freezing the fruits makes the skins easier for the alcohol to break up and release the full flavour of the fruits.

Tip- leaving the fruit for longer will produce a deeper flavour.

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Drink responsibly and enjoy natures super-food

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