Friday, September 16, 2011

Folklife Fridays: Elderberries

It was the mid-seventies when I started preserving food. We lived on a five-acre plot in the country, so there was room for a large garden, and I had an abundance of things to can and freeze. There was a huge brush pile on the property that had been there a while, and there were elderberry bushes growing all around it.

I watched those elderberries bloom and become berries, gorgeous purple-black berries that looked scrumptious. My mom, nor anyone close to me, had ever canned any juice or jelly from it. The library offered books on preserving wild berries, and I made some jelly that year, and many years since then.

In the early years of our country, pioneers and Indians referred to elderberries as 'the medicine chest of the common people.' The tiny berries contain more vitamin C than any other herbaceous plant except for black currants and rose hips. The jelly is eaten anytime one of us has a cold or flu-like symptoms.

Last week, Hub visited his brother out in the country, and came home with some elderberries.

It would be quite disheartening to try to pick all the tiny berries off the stems. I wash them, then add them to a pot with about two inches of water in the bottom, stems in all. They are cooked until all the juice is extracted; then I strain them to remove the stems.

The juice looks like grape juice, but it has a different flavor. It is hard to define, but it is similar to blueberries and blackberries.

The jelly is made using the same recipe as grape or blackberry jelly.

Bring it on, Winter! I've got ya covered.