The story of this blog post began quite a while ago with Tom (of The Great Irish Bake Off fame) saying he would like to make some elderberry wine. Him being the city boy that he is, and me being the farm girl that I am, we agreed it would be a great idea if he came down to my family home in Wicklow to pick some berries. Somewhere along the way this happily escalated, and resulted in a foraging trip for the Bake Off contestants that could make it, led by Biddy White Lennon (one of our esteemed judges). We happily trampled our way around the farm, Molly the sheepdog and Harney family in tow, and collected many fruits of the season. It was a really fun day, and naturally we had many delicious baked things after our gathering work. This is a significant advantage of having friends who bake really really well. I wanted to try to make a few different things this year, so embarked on using my haws for brandy and elderberries for balsamic vinegar. The blackberries had a few uses including a lemon and blackberry cordial and a buttermilk, blackberry and coffee pound cake. Here is the first of a few recipes.
Elderberry Balsamic vinegar
This recipe takes some time but very little effort. Sometimes with hedgerow fruits I have ended up with jars and jars of jellies and jams. Naturally these are delicious, but not always easy or practical to use so much of it. Vinegar, I thought, would be endlessly useful. I still think I was right! I am so glad that I made this vinegar. I am excited that it’s beautiful purple colour and fruity sweet sharp taste will serve as a reminder of a great day in so many dishes in the coming months. So far it has been delicious drizzled on a salad with salty cheese and simply served with bread to dip in it. It may seem like a lot of elderberries but it is very easy to get this amount, a trip to one tree should easily do it. It will also work well with frozen elderberries. One warning though, these berries stain everything purple! This recipe is a slight variation on the one on the www.eatweeds.co.uk website which I find invaluable for ideas for foraged goods!
500 grams ripe elderberries (weighed off the stalks) 500 ml red wine vinegar 700 grams sugar
1. Remove the elderberries from their stalks. The mix will be sieved later so there is no need to be too particular. Place them in a bowl. Tip: Using a fork to removed the elderberries by pulling it through the stalks as though you were using a comb to brush hair, is a quick and easy way to get the berries off the stalks. 2. Crush the berries slightly. I used a fork to mash them but you could use the end of a rolling pin or anything else with appropriate mashing/crushing attributes! 3. Pour over the red wine vinegar. 4. Cover with a cloth and leave to sit for 5 days. ( I did warn you that it takes time!). 5. After the five days, strain through a sieve into a saucepan. If you’re fussier than me, you could put it through a muslin cloth.
6. Add the sugar and place over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir until dissolved. An easy way to check this is to mix it with a wooden spoon, right to the bottom, and then look at the spoon. Grains of sugar should be pretty obvious on it if it hasn’t dissolved.
7. Turn up the heat to medium and bring to a rolling boil for ten minutes.
8. I used a jug to make the pouring easier, and it is a good idea to have all your containers ready to go! Use sterilised sealable bottles or jars to store it. Boiling water, a dishwasher or a hot oven should be enough to sterilise the jars.