It took me a long time to discover the delights of preserving. which is a little surprising since my mother and grandmother were prolific bottlers. However I am now a convert.
As an antidote to the business of helping out at a holiday club this week – I play Carrie Crooner singing coach and aging hippy (Yes, it’s not Shakespeare.) – I have made my first ever batch of elderberry cordial.
The berries were foraged from our allotment and the hedgerows within 5 minutes of home. Then I spent a lovely half hour in the sun with a fork stripping the berries from the stalks. There is no need to do this if you don’t want to but I find it quite therapeutic, in the same way I do shelling peas.
You need to choose a dry day in which to pick the berries. Put them in a preserving pan or large stainless steel saucepan to stew. Use just enough water to cover them.. When they are ready (it doesn’t take long) strain the contents of the pan through muslin. It’s at this point that your kitchen might resemble a scene from Macbeth.
As I am more Nigella than Delia I don’t bother to weigh the berries. Just add 450g of sugar for each pint of juice. I used brown sugar but I don’t think it matters. I also put in a couple of cinammon sticks and a handful of cloves (about 20) to my 2 pints of juice. Boil it up for 10 miutes and voila! Beautiful, delicious elderberry cordial. Pour into sterlised bottles which you then stash away in the pantry, cupboard, shed or garage. Perfect diluted with hot water on cold winter days when you’re feeling a bit under the weather.