pickled elderberries and hedgerow fruit

Chillier weather is good for my plan to make air-dried ham (my tunnel-boned leg of one of our Berkshire pigs is still salting in readiness) but is giving me a slightly panicky feeling about the fruits of our hedgerows. My head has been full of thoughts of rosehip jelly, pickled elderberries, elderberry wine and blackberry jam for a while but as usual I don’t seem to have found the time to make all the things I hoped for. And as I look out at another foggy day with all colours muted, I’m all too aware that the rich fruits I have so many plans for won’t be around for long.

At least there are still daily raspberries that can be picked from the garden without venturing too far in the fog. Definitely recommend Autumn fruiting raspberries for any of you who don’t already grow them: hassle-free, they don’t even need netting from the birds and are productive into November usually. I have them growing in what looks like quite a messy hedge at the moment, although variegated lemon balm nestles amongst them and in the summer hollyhocks flower behind the raspberries. Little packets of our raspberries are already in the freezer along with blackberries for the winter days when there’s a dearth of home-grown fruit and am already thinking of melting a little white chocolate with cream to pour over the frozen berries Nigella style.

In the meantime, I felt a need to walk across the fields to gather the last of the elderberries. I aimed for the spot where we heaped bags full of fragrant elderflowers for cordial on a warm summer evening. It turned out to be one of those days when looking out of the window the monotone colours of the foggy fields don’t tempt, yet once outside you notice tumbles of turmeric and russet Autumn leaves.

Back home I made Elderberry pickle and its rich purple colour made me feel more Autumnal still. I’m imagining it will go well with local cheese or venison but would love to hear of any other ideas. This is the recipe I used:

Elderberry Pickle

675g elderberries (weighed off stems)

50g light, soft brown sugar

12g ground ginger

few grinds of black pepper

pinch ground cloves

1 medium onion, finely chopped

240ml cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

pinch ground mace

50g sultanas

Wash elderberries well and drain. Sieve the berries, pushing out all the juice with back of a wooden spoon to make a thin puree. Put into a pan with all the other ingredients, bring to boil and simmer, stirring well for 20 minutes. Put into small, sterilized jars (I normally use them straight from the dishwasher for ease). Ready to eat after 4 weeks.


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