(photo taken on a very sunny 31st August)
I've used the flowers (to make cordial (which the children are still enjoying) and as a flavouring and setting agent in gooseberry jam), but have never used the berries so it was with interest that I started researching their use.
I was surprised to learn that the Elder tree has a very spooky reputation. Folklore says that if you approach it after dusk you will place yourself in the mercy of witches (we're in trouble then as there's a tree at the entrance to our chicken run and one of the family passes it twice every evening to close the coop.). It's known as the witch tree, devil's tree or Judas tree (it seems that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one).
Folklore aside, I think it's a very pretty tree and to me signifies that summer's on it's way.
So, for recipes using the berries.....
Firstly I put the question out on Twitter (www.twitter.com/Greensideupveg) and was rewarded with a few replies (thanks you).... @pierrerigothier suggested they should be infused in milk and made into an ice cream or a creme brule or infused in cream for a pannacotta. @fenifur suggested sorbet, jelly or jam or perhaps a cake and @mykidstime thought that Dick on Masterchef made a cream dessert. Great ideas as the only recipe that had sprung up in my head was for Elderberry Wine (eh, hem).
Next I turned to my favourite recipe book for preserving ideas - Food From Your Garden from The Reader's Digest Association Ltd (published 1977).
Valerie has requested the Elderberry Syrup recipe, so taken from that book:
6lb (3kg) ripe elderberries
1/2pt (300ml) water
6 cloves and a piece of root ginger or 2oz (50g) cinnamon and 1 level teaspoon allspice
- Strip the elderberries from the stalks, wash them and discard any that are shrivelled.
- Put the water and berries together in a large earthenware bowl and break up the fruits. (Do this by mashing the fruit in a bowl then heating over a pan of water until the juice runs, then mashing again.) Strain the pulp through muslin or a jelly bag (coffee filters work too) and to each pint (600ml) of juice add 3/4lb (375g) sugar.
- Put the sweetened mixture into a pan and simmer for 10 minutes. During this period add either the cloves and ginger or the cinnamon and allspice. Pour into sterilised warmed bottles and seal.