Laboring all Weekend Bears Fruit…

Let’s see… Labor Day weekend. Well, we had planned on ribs – Phil’s special all-day smoked ribs, glazed in the last few minutes of cooking with his made-from-scratch barbecue sauce. So Saturday we started up the grill around nine, and had the ribs on by ten – and we ate at seven thirty. Ummmmm….. Ribs, fresh bread, summer squash from the garden (sautéed lightly), salad, and of course, corn on the cob. We don’t eat like this but twice a year, and it is worth waiting for.

The kids and I found the swale (in the pasture where the spring is) full of blackberries. We picked almost two quarts of big, juicy ones – they are in the frig waiting to be made into jelly (or jam, if I can figure out how to deseed them). Then reason they are waiting is I am out of sugar. Phil brought me ten pounds, but I am still out, because also on Saturday Dad went canoeing on the Pemi above Newfound Highschool, and came back with two grocery bags full of elderberries. Then on Sunday he went back to dig a couple of plants for establishing a grove here on the farm and brought back two more bags.

So – four bags of elderberries… what to do? Well, the first thing I did was make two loaves of bread with 3/4 cup of whole raw berries in them. The berries turned the dough a lovely shade of purple and added some sweetness and a little extra crunch, too. Then the three of us (Phil watching in amusement as he tended the kids for me) stripped three bags of berries, leaving one for Sharon to take home and dye reeds for basket making. Three bags = 37 cups of berries, in case you were wondering. I boiled the berries for about 10 minutes to release the juice, then left it to cool overnight.

Monday morning we strained berries, finding as we did so that the juice will stain hands slightly, but nothing else. It wiped clean off floors, table, and stove – also Johann’s face. In the end, I had 17 cups of elderberry juice. One gallon and a cup. Whew. Dad brought out his hexagonal jars and added them to my half-pint jars, and Sharon found some cute, short ones at Walmart and added them to the mix. I jellied like mad for the rest of the day, trying two different recipes, three separate batches. The first recipe used honey in addition to sugar, the second recipe was in the Sure-jell package (this is important later).

All told, when the steam settled in the kitchen, I had 40 jars of jelly on the table cooling. They were sizes ranging from 8 oz to 12 oz hexes to a couple of pints, so I have no idea actually how much jelly we made. All of them were hot-water bath processed for ten minutes, something I had never done before, but it seems to be the new protocol for putting up jams and jellies. I used to simply hot-pack them into the jar, lid, and let cool until it sealed. In the past, housewives simply put them in jars and covered them with paraffin. Funny how things change. Have we become more paranoid, or was it really a problem?

That night we made a batch of fluffy pancakes and some scrambled eggs for dinner, and opened one of the pints to use as elderberry syrup. Wow. Everyone devoured the cakes, and the syrup was super. Not only that, I found in my research for recipes that elderberry is edging out echinacea as a cold and cough remedy. Yummy – I’ll take my medicine this way!

Tuesday morning was a small setback, though. None of the jars of jelly had setup at all. I have forty jars of elderberry syrup. Well, even with following the instructions on the pectin box I haven’t made jelly. Not sure why, but I’m happy with syrup. It is great on pancakes, hot cereal (we tried that this morning) and I am going to try topping ice cream with it, and flavoring seltzer water, too. Elderberry soda – there’s a concept. So all in all, I am happy with the end product. Oh, now the blackberries will have to wait, because I used all the ten pounds of sugar and then some. Oh, well. Another day, another adventure!

Elderberry Syrup (Hah!) Recipe

3 c elderberry juice
5 1/2 c sugar
2 c honey
1 box pectin
1/2 c lemon juice

Bring juice, sugar and honey to a boil stirring constantly, stir in pectin. Bring back to a full boil for one minute stirring constantly. Watch it! It foams up wildly! Take off the heat and pour into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Lid and hot-water process for 5-10 minutes, depending on whether your jars were sterile or not. (mine were, but I went longer, anyway.)

Phil’s Phluffy Phlapjacks

4 1/2 c Self-rising flour
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
4 cups milk
2/3 c vegetable oil

Beat wet ingredients into dry ingredients until perfectly smooth. Put spoonfuls onto med-high greased pans (or a griddle if you have one). Once the top is full of bubbles, turn over and cook until springy when touched in the middle. Serve at once, with butter and Elderberry Syrup. Serves 8 hungry people.

Elderberry Crunch Bread

3 c white flour
1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 c whole, ripe, raw elderberries
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 c oil
1c water

Put dry ingredients (elderberries too) in the cuisinart, pulse a few time to mix. Pour wet ingredients in slowly as the machine is on, until a dough is formed that ball together and does not stick to the sides. Process for 60 seconds, remove from the machine and from into two loaves. Allow to rise in warm place for 15-20 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees until hollow when tapped on top. About 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with butter. Lovely shade of purple.

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