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Cooking elderberries

Posted: Friday 13 September 2013
by Kate Bradbury

The elder trees near me are bursting with berries. There are recipes online for elderberry jelly and elderberry dumplings, but I think I’ll bake a pie.


Bunch of elderberries

It’s feeling very autumnal suddenly. Leaves are falling, a cold wind has started to chill my bones, and I’ve been spending a lot more time in the kitchen.

I always get a bit carried away with baking and preserving at the beginning of autumn. I don’t know if it’s just my way of dealing with the fact that it’s too cold to spend all day pottering in the garden, or if, in evolutionary terms, we humans are programmed to switch from growing to preserving in the run-up to winter. Perhaps it’s simply because there’s so much food to eat.

Regardless, I’ve been baking a lot of bread, making jams and chutneys, and planning recipes for soups, stews and sauces. Thanks to the good weather, this autumn will see a bumper crop of fruit from the hedgerows, and I’m keen to make the most of it.

Last year I made a delicious hawthorn ketchup, and recently I made a blackberry and pear jam. I’ll be making both again before the year is out, but I’m also keen to do something with elderberries.

Elderberries are rarely used in cooking and not available to buy in the shops. Foraging for them is therefore our only option, and now’s the time to do it. The elder trees near me are bursting with berries. The fruits aren’t to everyone’s taste – they’re very tart, but incredibly rich in antioxidants. I’ve used the flowers to make cordial before, but I’ve only ever eaten the berries raw.

I quite like the look of elderberry liqueur, but I’ve still got the bottle of plum vodka my mum gave me two Christmases ago – I’m just not much of a spirit drinker. There are recipes online for elderberry jelly and elderberry dumplings, but I’m not convinced I’ll like them.

I think I’ll bake a pie. There’s something reassuringly hearty and autumnal about a pie. To offset the tartness of the elderberries I’ll add blackberries and apples, and I might even make two and freeze one for Christmas. Of course, I’ll leave plenty of berries for the birds, and any other foragers who might want them.

What will you be foraging for this autumn and what will you make?





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oldchippy 13/09/2013 at 21:53

Halo Kate,There is an abundance of blackberries this year,I keep going home with blackberry stained fingers from the golf course when I take the dogs up there for a walk,also the elderberry trees are hanging with fruit, it looks like there be will plenty of sweat chestnuts as well this year,not a good start to the year but a good ending,Oldchippy.

fidgetbones 13/09/2013 at 21:55

Don't forget elderberry wine, and elderberry vinegar as an old cure for colds.

oldchippy 13/09/2013 at 21:55

Halo Kate,There is an abundance of blackberries this year,I keep going home with blackberry stained fingers from the golf course when I take the dogs up there for a walk,also the elderberry trees are hanging with fruit, it looks like there be will plenty of sweat chestnuts as well this year,not a good start to the year but a good ending,Oldchippy.

happymarion 15/09/2013 at 08:41

Hello, Kate, yes loads of elderberries, which I put in with the puree I make from Bramley fallers and freeze for pies, crumbles, sponge puddings quickly made in the microwave - all comforting food in the winter.

mikemove 15/09/2013 at 11:52

slightly related subject everyone, maybe you could help please-?
Some idiot has managed to trample all over my "this season planted" sambucas last night while relieving themselves on the way home from the pub in an area of may garden which has open public access!
ive tidied up the plant this morning, cutting back the trampled sections with nice clean cuts... but I'm looking at whats broken and left over, and it seems such a shame to just ditch these healthy stems to the compost heap... is it too late to make softwood cuttings from the remnants, and if not... how do I do it? I love the foliage of this plant and would certainly find other places in the garden it could be used.

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