Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have so much to offer as both food and medicine. They are rich in antioxidants and vitamins (packed with vitamin C) and the chemicals giving them their dark purple/red colour are responsible for many positive actions on immunity and vitality, the heart, blood vessels and circulation and in the reduction of harmful blood lipids (fats).
This experimental jelly recipe not only tastes delicious (fruity beyond belief with a hint of cherry sweets) but can make a really useful medicine for colds, ‘flu, chest infections and coughs, catarrh and mucous congestion and will help warm up the body in the colder months.
This is how the jelly was created….
First, I came across a great Elder tree packed with juicy ripe berries.
I picked only the heads that were completely ripe as the unripe ones are not good (you can always pick them out later though). Treat them really gently whilst carrying them home, then lay out carefully on a tray or similar ready for de-stalking.
You could most definitely use dried elderberries instead, just use less of them and add a bit more water while simmering. You can also re-hydrate them by soaking them in water until they plump back to life again if you like.
Using a fork, I gently removed the berries from the stalks (don’t worry if a few stalky bits get in, you will strain them out later).
After giving them a good wash they weighed in at just under 800g. I put them in a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan with a little water (not enough to cover them) and also added a whole organic lemon (sliced), 3 large wild scrumped apples from an old abandoned orchard and about 5 or 6 whole organic star anise.
After bringing it to the boil, I turned down the heat and gently simmered away for around half an hour or so, squashing the ingredients against the side of the pan and stirring every now and then.
Next I strained the mixture through a sieve and left it dripping for a while, giving a gentle squash with the back of a spoon to help it on its way. I read somewhere that if you squeeze too hard, the jelly will be cloudy.
Then the incredible smelling and looking liquid went back in a clean pan and I added about 150g of organic brown sugar and a level teaspoon of pure apple pectin powder (I hate shop bought pectins as they always have additives and preservatives) and simmered again for around 40 minutes.
When it seemed ready, it was poured into sterilised jam jars. It only made 2 jars but believe me, it was well worth it! I always have dried elderberries in store and often make up herbal teas with it but this is so much more delicious used as a spread on toast, to put on desserts or to eat straight off the spoon.
*Don’t forget that many jam/jelly/syrup recipes using low pectin fruits are often experimental so don’t be too worried about amounts etc. Whatever happens you should still end up with something delicious, edible and medicinal. Just keep a close eye on it if you’re not sure what its shelf life is and store it in the fridge or a cool dark place. I don’t think these 2 jars are going to hang around for long in my kitchen anyway!