Thursday, October 27, 2011
Elderberries can be found all over. My favorite place to find them is off the main road in the Sierra Foothills on National Forest Service land. Just remember to make sure you are not on private or National Parks land. Only the Forest Service allows you to collect the berries.
You know they are ready when the bunches of berries turn a dark purple. To pick the berries bring along your scissors and cut at least a half a paper grocery bags worth of berry bunches. One of the neat things about the elderberry bush is often it is blooming while there are ripe berries. If you collect the flowers you can also make a nice elderflower syrup that you can add to soda, champagne, or over ice cream.
When you get home you need to de-stem the berries. It is important that you do not have any stems when you start making the jam since the stems and the leaves are bitter and slightly toxic. It is not hard to de-stem the berries it just takes time. You just need to take a portion of the bunch and with light fingers gentry rake your partially open hand over the berries and let them fall into the bowl. So, sit down in front of your favorite show or turn on some nice music and the hour will fly by.
To prepare the berries rinse them off and bring the elderberries to a boil, stirring often. You can put water in but the more water you use the more diluted the flavor will be. I would suggest if you want to use water try ½ a cup and you can always add a bit more if you think it looks too dry.
Once the berries are soft run them through a food mill to get rid of the seeds. If you do not have a food mill you can place a cheese cloth in a strainer and strain out the juice. The cheese cloth method will give you a jelly rather than a jam but both are delicious.
4 cup Elderberry pulp and juice
3 Tbs lemon juice
1.5 packages pectin
7 cups sugar
Place the elderberries and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the pectin and return to a boil. Add the sugar and cook until it sheets off the spoon.
Prepare your jars by sterilizing the jars and lids. Pour your jam into the hot jars, clean off the edges and put on the lids. Turn your jars upside down on a clean cloth for about 10 minutes then return to the upright position. You will hear the lid pop as the jars cool. Once they are cool check to make sure they all sealed. Any that did not seal put in the fridge. The rest will be shelf stable for about a year.