The elderberry tree on the corner of my street has been laden with berries and taunting me for weeks now. As the fruit began to turn these last few days I decided I couldn’t see it rot in good conscience – I would just have to make elderberry jelly.
I scoured the internet for recipes and eventually decided on this one. It didn’t require any special ingredients, and in fact would cost very little beside a 69p bag of sugar and a couple of unwaxed lemons from the corner shop. I did have to procure a few additional oddments from the cook shop – a jam thermometer and a jelly bag. I already had wax circles, labels etc from my forays into chilli jam. I had also been offered a stash of jars – a relief, having given all my last stash away with chilli jam in!
Ten minutes on the corner with my kitchen scissors and a bucket yielded 1.4kg of berries which took an hour and a half to strip from their stems. You should wash your berries before stripping, and weigh them afterwards, but I rinsed mine again, just to be sure I’d removed every last spider and caterpillar nesting in there… You can strip with a fork, but I used my fingers too, so rewashing seemed a good idea!
Being a cheapskate, I refuse to shell out £14.99 on a jam stand, but I did splash out £1.50 on a jelly bag! These have a rubber trim which makes them good and grippy, ideal for improvising over, say, the jug attachment from the smoothie maker!
This actually worked especially well, as the nozzle made it possible to empty the collected juice halfway through straining, ensuring the bag was never immersed.
My problems came at the next step, when heating the jelly to 106 C – setting point. My saucepan was not quite deep enough, and I could only get to 104 C before it was ready to boil over… So, it remains to be seen whether my jelly will set. For future reference a jam pan may be a good investment!
So, my top tips for elderberry jelly making are:
- Set aside plenty of time for de-berrying the stems
- Make sure you’re wearing clothes and using tea towels you don’t mind staining a rich, berry purple
- Don’t use a white enamel saucepan unless you want it to remain a bluish-grey and stain future vegetables pink…
- Invest in a jam pan – which will solve the above problem anyway.
- NEVER manicure before jellying! Your nails and fingertips WILL come out a kind of bruised-looking blue-black shade.
Being new to jam- and jelly-making, I was relying on the interwebs for top tips. One of my favourite websites for this sort of thing is Make It and Mend It: their preserving pages are full of wisdom, and their beginner’s video, Marianna makes jam, is a great confidence boost for novices like me! If you’re making jam, the visual demonstration of how to test on a saucer is very helpful.
UPDATE: It didn’t set. What it did, however, was create a beautiful, thick, sweet syrup, which will be delicious drizzled over ice-cream, porridge, or vanilla cheesecake, and which I’m also going to try using in gravy with game or duck, and perhaps in some seasonal cocktails… elderberry gin martini, anyone? 😀