Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making Jelly - It's Wild!

"Ever eat a pine tree? Some parts are edible." For some reason when I was  a kid, we thought that phrase by Euell Gibbons was so funny (it must have been from a television commercial.)    Now, as an adult, I  love Euell Gibbons' books and I enjoy foraging for wild foods.

I was reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus before bed the other night, the chapter where he raves about  sumac-elderberry jelly. It just happens to be peak season for both sumac berries and elderberries, so I decided to make some jelly last night.
It only took a few minutes to snip a  huge bowl of  sumac spikes. They are blooming prolifically at the edge of  our prairie - I didn't  even make a noticeable dent in the supply.
Rog had picked a  big basket of elderberries a couple days ago with the intent to make wine. Since he hasn't tackled that project yet, I claimed them.  The most tedious part of making this jelly is picking all the  little elderberries off the umbrell-shaped stems.  The stems are somewhat  toxic, so it is important to removes them carefully.
The elderberries are simmered and crushed to make the  juice (I used a potato masher,)  The sumac berries are prepared similarly.

The juices is are strained and combined in a pot, then brought to a boil.  A package of Sure Jell is added. When it comes to a boil again, 5 cups of sugar are added and stirred until dissolved,  then boiled for three minutes.  This bubbling,  delicious-smelling mixture is poured into clean jelly  jars,  sealed, and allowed to cool. That's all there is to it!
The color is a beautiful magenta.
We had the jelly on French bread toast for breakfast this morning. Yum! The sumac adds a sparkling touch of tartness to the elderberries.

I was planning to give my CSA members elderberries in their veggie boxes today, but  I figured they might appreciate finished jelly more - so they each got a jar.
I had enough of both juices left to make a second batch of jelly this afternoon. I might just make a third batch for future gifts.

Here is the recipe I used, from this website, that is very close to Euell Gibbons' instructions:

Sumac-Elderberry Jelly

2 cups elderberry juice
2 cups sumac juice
5 cups sugar
1 pkg. Sure-Jell (a commercially available jelly-making powder)

Prepare the elderberry juice by putting 2 quarts of elderberries and 2 cups of water in a suitable pot. Heat the mixture and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Mash the softened fruit, stir, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain the finished juice through several layers of cheesecloth (I use a very fine  metal sieve.)

The sumac juice is prepared in a similar manner. Take a gallon or so of the berry heads and put in a pot. Cover with water. Heat while stirring and mashing the berries. I do not heat this mixture to boiling, rather just enough to help get the most color and flavor from the berry heads. After about 10 minutes, remove from the stove and strain the juice to remove stems, seeds, and as many of the fuzzy little seed hairs as possible.

To make the jelly, heat 2 cups of the elderberry juice and 2 cups of the sumac juice in a large pot. As the mixture begins to boil, add 1 package of Sure-Jell (or other commercially available jelly-making compound) and mix thoroughly. Return the solution to a boil and add, while stirring, the 5 cups of sugar. Allow all this to boil for 3 minutes, stirring all the while to prevent sticking or scorching. After the 3 minutes have elapsed, remove from heat and ladle into sterilized 1/2-pint jelly jars. Have your lids and rings ready and screw on snuggly. Cover the capped jars with a light towel and allow them to self-seal.

1 comment:

Leslie Lyne Zantow said...

So glad you posted the recipe. I'm thinking of trying it. I made elderberry jelly and syrup last year and a lot of elderberry wine. We picked over 180 lbs of elderberries last year and just started to pick again this year. Have you heard about making a second run wine on the same berries? We have done this a number of times and the second run wine is just as flavorful as the first run. What I mean by second run is, You make your first batch of elderberry wine, but once the initial fermenting is done you take that same bag of elderberries(out of the fermenter) and put it into a new fermenter with white grape juice. You get twice as much wine on the same berries. The second run is a bit lighter in color but very good. Just thought I would pass that on.