Ever eaten elderberries?
It's another berry photo! (This one courtesy of my sister Sarah because my camera battery ran out; I'm hoping that's a lesson I'll learn just once.)
These elderberries are from Shohola Lake and I have just enough to make Sumac Elderberry Jelly. It's one of my most requested preserves when I'm putting together Christmas baskets.
There are so many things you can do with elderberries I have a hard time deciding. They make an excellent jam, although the seeds bother some people. Not me, especially if you let the jam sit for a few months; that way the seeds soften up. Elderberry pie is tasty and a sure sign that fall approaches. Elderberry wine is a classic but I've never harvested enough to try a batch. (I think you need 6 lbs!)
Every year I consider my options, and every year Sumac Elderberry Jelly wins out. Here's the recipe, which I've modified slightly from Billy Joe Tatum's Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook:
You'll need about 2 cups of each kind of berry. Separately juice your sumac berries and elderberries by covering each in a minimal amount of water (just to float the berries), simmering for about 5-10 minutes, then straining through cheesecloth. You should have at least 3 (and no more than 4) cups of juice, combined. When I'm short, I fill in with whatever interesting liquid I have on hand. Last year, that was homemade blueberry wine but it could just as easily be a little grape juice. Try not to use more than a half cup of this filler.
Combine the juices in a preserving pan, and add 2 broken cinnamon sticks and a teaspoon of cloves. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the juice and return to the preserving pan. Add 6 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 box of powdered pectin and bring the mix to a boil.
When the boil can't be stirred down, add 1 cup sugar for every cup of liquid. (Did you have 3 cups of juice? 4?) Keep stirring, and return the mix to a boil. When the mix begins to reboil, stir for exactly 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
Skim, pour into jelly jars, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
It may not be too late for you to harvest your own elderberries, although Leda got hers about a month ago in Brooklyn. It all depends on your climate. Definitely worth getting out there to take a look. And if you're on my Christmas list, put in your request now!