Sometimes a bit of seasonal goodness can fix pretty much anything. Like this:
Are you well?
No? Oh, poor thing, you sound full of a cold. Have a spoon of elderberry cordial to help your cough.
Yes? Marvellous! Join me in a cocktail. I've made Hedgerow Kir Royale: elderberry cordial and prosecco.
|Droopy, juicy elderberries|
I don't actually care about that if I'm truthful. I only care that it is utterly delicious.
And seasonal, which is oh so virtuous and fashionable these days.
And mostly free, making it ideal for these frugal and glum times. (Except when you add prosecco to it.)
And I get to make it myself, continuing my transformation from lazy bookworm to the Ambridge matriarch.*
*A side note: My mum and I have been emailing back and forth with competing baking and preserve making triumphs over the last week. I sign mine Jill Archer Wannabe, Mum signs hers Suzy Homemaker. Suzy overtook Jill when she made 90 billion jars of damson jam (well, 34. but that's pretty much a billion ) over the past two days. However, I'm not writing Jill off yet - I have more types of jam, jelly, crumble and cordials. Plus I'm hoping the 220 shortbread biscuits I made today will help pull Jill into the lead.
In case you too would like to make the miracle of scrumptiousness that is elderberry cordial, here's how I did it.
First, pick your elderberries. Assuming you aren't in a totally concrete environment, you'll find heaps of them around just now. We drove to the hedgerows a few miles from our house, near Harewood, because there are absolutely MASSES there. I prefer to use a little pair of scissors to pick the berries to just pulling them because fewer berries fall to the ground. Only pick the droopy, heavy berry clusters - they are the most ripe and juicy.
When you've filled your carrier bag, head home for the exciting task of removing the berries from the stalks. This is important because the plant and unripe berries contain a form of cyanide. (Don't get too worried, so do loads of fruit we eat. It's mild) The ripe ones are good for you once they've been cooked, which breaks down the alkaloids that cause the problems. Well, the BBC Food website says that and if you can't trust the BBC who can you trust?
Anyway, removing the berries by hand is a long and finger-staining job. I use a fork to whip them off the stalks much more quickly. It still took me an hour but I had the radio to keep me company.
I pick out any green, unripe berries by hand. I also have to keep an eye out for unwitting passengers. This week's score was:
Despite using a fork mostly, I still ended up with fairly stained hands, but it washed off far more easily than the stains from the plum jam.
Note the very short nails. Between baking, gardening and jam making I think the shorter my nails are the better.
Anyway, I ended up with two and a half kilos of elderberries. Most I simmered with apples to make elderberry jelly but some were for the cordial.
I add about 400 or 500ml of water per kilo of elderberries and simmer them for around 25 minutes. I bash them about with a potato masher towards the end of the cooking period to release as much juice as possible. It goes an astonishingly rich dark purple colour. Then it is ready to be strained.
Straining it needs a jelly bag, a fine tea towel or some muslin suspended above a bowl. I use a jelly bag tied to the legs of an upturned kitchen chair that I sit on a counter out of the way, with a LARGE bowl underneath the bag to catch the liquid. You need to let gravity do its work, slowly trickling and dripping all the juice out. If you squeeze the bag or press the berry pulp to speed things along your cordial (or jelly) will be cloudy.My advice it to go see a movie at this point. Or take a nap. Naps are lovely.
When I was ready to crack on (i.e. woke up) I popped some clean bottles in a low oven to sterilise. Lakeland and other places do nice bottles with swing tops that are really good for this sort of thing if you want to give the cordial as a present.
I added 400g of sugar per litre of elderberry liquid and heated it in a saucepan. Once the sugar had dissolved I tasted it for sweetness and added any more I felt necessary (not much on this occasion.) I poured the cordial into the warm sterilised bottles and sealed them. All done.
Recipe - Hedgerow Kir Royale
Add one tablespoon of elderberry cordial to each wine glass and top up carefully with Cava, Prosecco or whatever sparkling wine you like. It froths hugely, so go easy.
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