Well, the preserving season is upon us once again, and to keep things exciting I like to add a few new preserves to my repertoire every year. I went on my first forage as an adult yesterday and returned with a bag, full of elderberries. (I was also taken for some sort of foraging 'expert' by a family picking blackberries - must have been my air of confidence and the fact that I'd thought to wear wellies and bring scissors!)
I used the elderberries in another first - a recipe from the A year with James Wong (of Grow your own drugs fame) that I bought ages ago but haven't made anything from as, when you look at the recipes in detail, they almost always include something random I don't have to hand, like eucalyptus or herb robert (although that one's sorted now as I'm growing it in the herb garden!). It's a very simple elderberry cordial recipe, using 1kg of fruit to make about 600ml of juice to turn into the cordial. My berries made quite a lot more juice, so if I hadn't been a muppet and spilt lots of it on the floor when trying to remove my jelly bag, I could have had some juice to make an interesting 'hedgerow-style' jelly next weekend with some of our windfall apples and some foraged blackberries. Still, my cordial looks great and a small taste from the bottom of the pan promises good things; it should last up to 6 months kept in cool, dry conditions.
Elderberry cordial has traditionally been used to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu and there seems to be some recent studies which show it can assist patients to recover faster, particularly from Type A influenza. I'm a bit partial to a hot toddy when I've got a cold, so I'll be replacing my lemon juice with 1 tbsp of my elderberry cordial this autumn/winter.
If you watched any of James' TV programme, you'll know he's a man who likes the booze, and only after I'd started my cordial did I discover his recipe for elderberry liqueur, which again can be used as a medicinal hot toddy when you're feeling under the weather - looks like I'll be out foraging again next weekend!