Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cooking with Elderberries

Earlier this week, I took the elderberries from the freezer, rolled the frozen berries from the stems, rinsed them, and began to cook.

First I made a pie, playing around with a recipe I found on the internet. I used about 4 cups of berries and sweetened them with the last of our birch syrup. It was quite juicy so I added flour to thicken the filling. The finished pie looked and smelled wonderful. But the flavor, seemed okay at first, somewhat like blueberry, but it left a bitter flavor in our mouths that lasted for hours. Thag was ready to give up (he hates bitter things--especially when they are supposed to be sweet). The next day, I had another sliver and was very surprised that after the pie sat overnight it was much better. Thag agrees. I think next time I will mix the elderberries with another fruit and see if this tempers the bitterness.

I made a jam using a recipe I found at that they say is from a book called Food From the Countryside by Avril Rodway. It is the first time I have made jam without a commercial pectin. The recipe uses apple instead, and I was nervous. Commercial pectin recipes are very precise about timing, without them you go by appearance (or you have the right thermometer, which as we know from my clover experiment, I do not). This recipe said that the jam is ready when "a small quantity, put on a plate, wrinkles when cold." This never happened; however, I've made enough jam to know what nearly finished jam looks like and feels like in a pot and that did happen. It jelled up quite beautifully, actually. And it took about an hour which is what the recipe reports.

But considering our experience with the pie, we were anxious about the flavor. We shouldn't have been. It is an excellent jam--quite seedy--which is why, I assume, most people jelly them. I love seedy jams, though, and I hope to make this one again soon.


  1. We use a fine screened food mill to remove the seeds and any errant stems for jam. We also add some concentrated sumac-ade to the recipe to "brighten" the flavor of the jam. We find that the taste of elderberries alone is a bit too oaky or dusky. Lots of people like the jam we made, since it reminds them of something their grandmothers would make from the old days.

  2. Mmm. I love sumac-ade. Sounds like a great addition. How much sumac-ade do you use in your elderberry jam? Do you sweeten the sumac-ade before you add it?