I have always been a great fan of elderflower, mainly in cordial but recently tasted it in cakes. But this time of year it’s the berries on the Elder that are in such abundance. Along with blackberries Hampstead Heath produced shed loads of elderberries this year. I have never really done anything with the Elderberries before. Out walking the dog yesterday the elderberries were so heavy they were making the branches dip under the weight. I had been out gathering other wild fruits such as Damsons, Plums, Sloe, Rosehips and Apples in the countryside a few days before so I was in full on foraging mode. I couldn’t resist and decided to harvest some. They glistened in the sun, some still green looking like peppercorns. Something about harvesting from the hedgerows makes me feel very human. To be doing something I know that my ancestors did for thousands of years before me. That I am participating in the very same act is somehow reassuring. I got myself a good sized carrier bag full and took them home.
So a little bit of research and an Elderberry syrup it was then.
I washed and de-stalked the berries which took a little concentration but I listened to a programme about the party political conferences and the in fighting of UKIP so that made it a lot more enjoyable but I still managed to miss some stalks. I boiled them for about half an hour mashed them with my spud masher and then drained them. I put the liquid back on the heat and added a few slices of fresh ginger and a few pieces of cinnamon sticks and reduced the liquid. I tasted it at this stage and really thought it wasn’t going to work it tasted earthy and watery. I carried on reducing it until it was about half the amount of water. Then as it was cooling stirred in some raw honey. I use local honey ( from having allergies in the family) which is a bit expensive but worth it. This one I use is from Regents park.
The colour in the pan was out of this world was even thinking I bet this was used at some point as a dye. I tasted it again and it was gorgeous. I tried it on anyone that passed by and they all loved it. I bottled what was left and I’ll be off to get some more at the weekend. For a tonic against colds or a slurp on some ice cream I must say I am chuffed.
Thank you Hampstead Heath for providing such a lovely harvest