I had a great time foraging last autumn and for the first time finally got loads of elderberries. I’ve used the flowers for years to make cordial, but always missed the berries. Last year I made a great Elderberry and Ginger Jelly – with added blackberries to add flavour and sweetness and added apple to add pectin. The two berries complement each other really well and they are luckily widely available for foraging at the same time along hedgerows, in forests and in cities along the cycle paths.
If you have never made jelly before you will find that there are two parts to the making. The first part is the cooking of the fruit and then straining the juices. The trick to get a clear jelly is to let it strain for a long enough time that all the juice runs through. If you don’t mind the jelly not being clear you can press the muslin bag (or whatever you’re using for the straining) to get the last drops of this precious liquid out! The second part is adding the sugar and simmering till the liquid reaches setting point when cold. Without any further ado, here’s the recipe. I relish the rich flavour almost every Sunday morning at the moment!
Elderberry and Ginger Jelly
550 g Elderberries (sorted and rinsed)
250 g Blackberries (sorted and rinsed)
2 pieces of ginger (£1 coin size – 1 inch)
150 g apple
100 ml water
Put all the fruit, ginger and water in a pot with a thick bottom and cook till all the fruit is soft and the juices are freed. Leave to cool and strain through a muslin cloth for several hours or preferably overnight. Once the juice is strained, measure how much you have in a measuring jug. You now need to add the sugar. For jelly you need 450 g/ 1 pound of sugar to 600 ml/1 pint of juice.
Add the juice and sugar to a pot and bring to the boil. You need to let it simmer for between 10 – 20 min before testing whether the jelly has set. The way I test is by putting a sideplate in the fridge at the beginning and when I’m ready to test if it has set, I put a bit of the liquid on it and put it back in the fridge for a minute or so. If the liquid has formed a skin when I push my finger through it has set.
Before you start the jelly you need to wash enough jars to and lids for it (you’ll need about 3 medium sized jars for this amount). Once washed you need to sterilise the jars in the oven at 150º for about 30 min or till they are dry. I sterilise the lids by soaking them in boiled water for 10-15 minutes. When the jelly has set pour the liquid into the jars (it’s best if they are slightly cooled down, but not completely cold) and seal with the lid immediately. Leave to cool, label and store.
Making your own preserves is incredibly satisfactory and once you get the hang of the different stages it is easy as well. It does take a bit of time to forage and go through all the stages, but you’ll have delicious preserves to last you for the rest of the year that have been made with effort and love – or unique, homemade presents for family and friends.
© Saraphir Qaa-Rishi