Two Kindred Spirits

Perhaps, for a time, our journeys will coincide, and our two kindred spirits will become as one...

Location: Maunawili Valley, O'ahu, Hawai'i, United States

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Making Elderberry Jam

This is what elderberry looks like growing in the wilds of New England. I've been nurturing a lush thicket of it growing on my farm in Standish, Maine.

The berries are very tiny, sour, and should not be eaten straight from the bush. But they're very easy to gather, and once cleaned, make luscious pies, delicious jams and jellies, and homemade wine.

This is a nice example of unripe berries, varying from lime green slowly blushing to pink before finally ripening to deep purple.

To gather elderberries, simply take a basket or large bag with a pair of clippers.

Once the berries have been gathered, (leaving some behind for the birds), sit somewhere comfortable, and gently strip the berries from their branchlets into a strainer.

After rinsing, soak the berries in water in a large bowl for a short period of time. As you can see in this illustration, unripe berries will float to the top, in addition to any detritus you'll want to eliminate.

Before the cooking of the berries, wash your canning jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse.

Fill a large canning pot half-full with water and bring to a simmer. To do this on my stove, I have to put the heat on high for the amount of water in the canner.

Almost all of the recipes I've seen to make Elderberry Jam suggest that 2 qts of fresh berries will yield about 6 half-pint jars of jam, but I've found that the yield is closer to 10 half-pint jars of that deep purple goodness.

To cook the berries add 6 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup white vinegar to 2 qts. of berries. Slowly bring to a boil, then cook on medium heat until thickened.

As you can see I needed to double the recipe for the 4qts. of berries I had collected. With the additional sugar, the mixture filled an 8qt. stock pot.

And in the interest of 'full disclosure', while waiting impatiently for the mixture to come to a full boil~DON'T start washing dishes, thinking how wonderful it's all beginning to smell, only to discover you've allowed it to boil over......hmmm.

Once the mixture is ready and the jars have been sterilized in the canning pot, ladle the mixture into the jars and cover with lids. (Follow the canning instructions included with the lids for modern canning.)

Gently submerge the jam jars below the slowly boiling water for five minutes.

The pint sized original canning jars with wire are given to close family members who generally return the prized jars for future "refills". The modern half-pints are given to dear friends and close colleagues over the holidays, with enough stored away for my yearly supply of elderberry jam. I know I have to make it last until next summer's berry picking and jam making session!



Blogger Elenka said...

That's one plant that we don't have on our nine acres!
Nice strainer!!

September 1, 2011 at 6:24 PM  

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