So yesterday was jam-making day. Berries duly collected and debugged (the insects are different here than in the UK. Bigger and creepier. I don't really do bugs. Ugh!). Removing the berries from the stalks took so long and was so boring. For future reference: bring a friend for this process. Also, I was going for jam but given how difficult it was to get all the stalks out and how persistant the various insects were, I'd go for jelly if you've got the time and the muslin cloth. You see, how I learn all these things by trial and error? In another twenty years or so, I'll be an expert at jams and jellies of all sorts and running workshops for the local WI. (Can I insert an evil cackle here?)
Then came the stewing to draw out juices, the addition of cooked apple for pectin and sugar, and finally the boiling. This used to be my favourite part of jam-making when 'helping' my mum, and I still love the colours, smells, and the translucent sheen on the boiling fruit. My problem? I still don't really know what I'm doing. Maybe not enough apple/pectin, maybe not enough acid/cider vinegar, maybe not enough sugar. But not enough of something, because I boiled it for nearly an hour yesterday, finally gave up and potted it, and it still hasn't set. I did test it repeatedly, but no discernible progress was made. So I have four pots of elderberry and apple coulis, which may not last as I did not have the wax discs and cellophane covers favoured by my mother. I left a half-inch or so gap, tightened the lids and hoped that as the jam cooled, this would create a bit of a vacuum. Not sure if it worked, but hey.
Which brings me to my final concern. I'm not actually certain that they are elderberries. When one of my housemates asked where I got them, and I explained where the tree was, he looked at me with such horror and fear that I called my parents and googled frantically. I've looked at several hundred pictures of elderberries online, and they all look exactly like the fruit I picked. I'm as sure as someone who has never before visually identified an elder tree could possibly be. Watch this space - I want to check this out before I actually eat the jam/coulis/soup.
So now I have jelly with is overset and jam which is underset. A healthy balance, then. :D