It’s raining here at the moment, making me rather glad that I got out for a good, long walk the other evening to collect a few good pounds worth of blackberries and elderberries!  It was mid evening at the time, and the sun was setting, casting long, slanting shadows of trees across the fields.  It has been getting increasingly nippy here lately, and that evening was no exception as the sun slowly sank on the horizon!  I came home with my hair in a tangle, swinging bags of elderberries and blackberries and singing at the top of my lungs, which I suspect must have terrified the neighbours, but its a sight they will have to get used to, I suspect!

Elderberries - one of my favourite autumn fruits!
Elderberries – one of my favourite autumn fruits!

That evening was spent watching Cadfael (I covet his herbarium and gardens!) and cheerfully removing elderberries from their stems, a time consuming but very relaxing process.   The following morning saw the first round of autumn concoctions, in this case two kinds of elderberry and blackberry elixir, and some elderberry and blackberry honey, which has set rather like jam and is utterly delectable!  Here are recipes for these concoctions.

Elderberries and Blackberries packed in a jar, awaiting honey and brandy...
Elderberries and Blackberries packed in a jar, awaiting honey and brandy…

Elderberry and Blackberry Brandy Version One

In a clean kilner jar, pile half to two thirds full of fresh elderberries and blackberries.   Add a generous spoonful or two of local honey, and pour brandy over until one inch above the fruit.  Give it a thorough shake up, pop the lid on and let it steep for a few weeks, then strain out the fruit.  Keep this separate – you can freeze it if you want – as it will make a delicious, vitamin C rich addition to fruit compot, crumble or many other desserts over the winter!

Elderberry and Blackberry Honey.... tasty!
Elderberry and Blackberry Honey…. tasty!

Elderberry and Blackberry Honey / Jam (No refined sugar used)

In a saucepan, put the rest of the fruit left over from the brandy making session, and add about three tablespoons of water.  Put the pan on a low heat, stirring from time to time, until the fruit breaks down and the juices run.   Simmer gently for a few minutes after this, then push the lot of it through a sieve in batches, extracting as much juice as possible.  Put the remaining fruit pulp into a separate kilner jar, ready for the second brandy recipe version.

The juice and fruit once pushed through the sieve can go back into a pan on a moderate heat.   Simmer it gently until it has reduced by at least 50% – which won’t take as long as you think, honest!   Set aside two generous scoops of this gloopy mixture.  To the rest, add 3/4 of a jar of honey and stir thoroughly until the juice and fruit pulp is well mixed in.  Pour it back into a clean jar and put the lid on.   This should set into a lovely thick, jelly like consistency, which is delicious either as a teaspoon dose of immune boosting delight, or stirred into puddings, spooned onto porridge, or even mixed into a cup of hot water as a hot drink!  No added sugar – just the natural fruit sugars, and the honey itself.   By simmering it and reducing it down, you are removing a large amount of the water in the fruit, which means it should keep well for a good while as the honey is much less diluted, but if you are worried, store it in the fridge once it has been opened.

Elderberries on one of the local trees.
Elderberries on one of the local trees.

Blackberry and Elderberry Brandy Version Two

In the kilner jar with the fruit pulp left over from the honey recipe before, add the two large scoops of reduced fruit juice, stirring up thoroughly.   Pour over the brandy and add two large spoons of honey, then shake up thoroughly.   Leave to steep for two weeks.  I’m going to add some grated apple to mine once the first load of fruit pulp is filtered out, to give it a slightly different flavour as I have a large number of windfalls in the garden at present!   That way once the apple is filtered out, that too can be added to fruit compot over the winter.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy these recipes – remember that blackberries and elderberries freeze just fine, so if you don’t have time to make your recipes now, just freeze the fruit and come back to it when you have more time!

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