Elderberry Liqueur

I have been desperate to make this concoction ever since the elderflowers faded in back in early summer.  It was not one I could make on board Wand’ring Bark in the summer when I was playing with elderberries here, here and here because I didn’t have either the ingredients or the bottles.  I cannot remember now.  I may simply have been that I did not find them enough quantity as it was early in the season.  Or I may have not had the recipe with me.  Or I may have simply forgotten.  Who knows?

Anyway, anyway, anyway.  With the season galloping apace and my operation fast approaching, I was becoming a tad obsessed.  So, over the August bank holiday, while my mother was staying, we took a walk across some fields in my locality.  We were actually looking for a mulberry tree.  Not that we found it.  But we did find masses of fat, bursting elderberries.  It would have been rude to leave them.

Yesterday was my appointed bottling day and while the flavour needs to mature for three months before it is ready, the wee dram I tested (purely for scientific purposes, you understand …) was most promising.  Sort of like alcoholic ribena.  I can work with that 🙂

As for the bottling, I found some delightful stacking bottles at Stratford’s Food Festival yesterday for a fraction of the price I had seen them online.

I would not normally buy containers, unless unavoidable, but these will look so pretty with different coloured hedgerow liquors in them and will make lovely additions to the Christmas Hampers I am making.  Hmmm, I can feel a series of posts on edible gifts coming, seeing as that is the thing I most commonly google these days …

Elderberry Liqueur

1250g elderberries

750ml brandy

425g sugar

1 1/4tsp ground allspice

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

1/4tsp ground mace

Wash the elderberries and discard any leaves.  Using a fork, strip them off the stalks into a bowl.  Lightly mash the fruit with the end of a rolling-pin, pint glass or potato masher.  Stir in the other ingredients.  Pour into large sterilised jar and tightly seal.  Leave in a cool, dark place for one month.

Strain through scalded muslin.  Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.  Store for three more months before drinking.

Tunnels & Haws

It is just as well blogging is a written medium. Discussing haws orally leads to all sorts of embarrassing misunderstandings. Especially mentioning them in the same breath as tunnels, towpaths and canals it seems.

Today we will be travelling through the canal network’s longest tunnel. I am writing, of course, about the Standedge Tunnel. The Captain has barely slept for the excitement. Strangely, I am less moved by the prospect. His recitation of the facts is hardly helping. Apparently it is 3 1/4 miles long, 196m above sea level and 194m below the moors. It is therefore the longest, deepest, highest tunnel in England. It opened in 1811, took 17 years and 50 lives to build. So it is also old and possibly haunted. To go through today one needs a BW escort, a life jacket and a hard hat. So, all things considered, does my lack of excitement surprise you?

I shall console myself with thoughts of my most surprising jam yet: Haw, Apple and Elderberry Jelly. I was very dubious as I mashed the haws with the other fruit. They did not give off the best aroma. But the end result is magnificent. Try it, I dare you!

Haw, Apple & Elderberry Jelly

450g haws

450g apples, cut into chunks

450g elderberries

Water

Sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Knob of butter

Combine all fruits in preserving pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until soft, crushing with potato masher to extract juices. Pour mix into a scalded muslin bag and strain overnight. Measure juice. Allow 450g of sugar to every 600ml of juice. Return juice to pan with sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently, stirring until sugar dissolved. Add knob of butter and boil rapidly until setting point reached. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Tunnels & Haws

It is just as well blogging is a written medium. Discussing haws orally leads to all sorts of embarrassing misunderstandings. Especially mentioning them in the same breath as tunnels, towpaths and canals it seems.

Today we will be travelling through the canal network’s longest tunnel. I am writing, of course, about the Standedge Tunnel. The Captain has barely slept for the excitement. Strangely, I am less moved by the prospect. His recitation of the facts is hardly helping. Apparently it is 3 1/4 miles long, 196m above sea level and 194m below the moors. It is therefore the longest, deepest, highest tunnel in England. It opened in 1811, took 17 years and 50 lives to build. So it is also old and possibly haunted. To go through today one needs a BW escort, a life jacket and a hard hat. So, all things considered, does my lack of excitement surprise you?

I shall console myself with thoughts of my most surprising jam yet: Haw, Apple and Elderberry Jelly. I was very dubious as I mashed the haws with the other fruit. They did not give off the best aroma. But the end result is magnificent. Try it, I dare you!

Haw, Apple & Elderberry Jelly

450g haws

450g apples, cut into chunks

450g elderberries

Water

Sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Knob of butter

Combine all fruits in preserving pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer until soft, crushing with potato masher to extract juices. Pour mix into a scalded muslin bag and strain overnight. Measure juice. Allow 450g of sugar to every 600ml of juice. Return juice to pan with sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently, stirring until sugar dissolved. Add knob of butter and boil rapidly until setting point reached. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Massacre in the Galley

You would not believe that multiple homicides had not been committed in my kitchen today.  Really, you wouldn’t.  I have been playing with blackberries.  And elderberries.  And, oh my, the red staining!

The Captain was quite pleased.  You see, I am not known as a tidy cook.  Despite my name.  That will not make sense unless you know me, but no matter.  However, on the boat, I have no option but to clear up as I go along.  The kitchen is simply too small to do otherwise.  Today I have spent what feels like all day, all day I tell you, washing up.  I could easily have been swabbing down after the homicide squad have finished.  Who could have believed that the elderberry, such a small thing, could contain so much juice?  It went everywhere.  I found it on my clothes.  Predictable.  On my arms.  Unsurprising.  My feet.  A little concerning.  Up the walls.  More worrying.  Down the outsides of the boat.  Just bizarre.  But the culinary magic that I have conjured with these berries is a wonder to behold!

Today I had the whole day to cook.  The weather decided to join in.  We cruised along the Trent in sweltering sunshine, all the windows open, melting in the heat.  Not the best day to make jam possibly.  I looked like I had been steamed alive by lunchtime.  Oh.  Wait.  That would be because I was doing my best to replicate those conditions.  The Captain had told me on Monday, that I would have no foraging opportunities during the day as all the locks were manned an it is a tad harder to jump ship on a river.  Especially a rather large one.  Consequently, I foraged like a mad thing yesterday to stockpile ingredients.

The results of all this sweaty laborious effort are:

Rosehip and Bramble Jelly

Blackberry Chutney

Elderberry Pickle

Pontack (elderberry) Sauce

Also, but not yet pictured, Blackberry Vodka, Blackberry Liqueur and Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar.  It has been a long hot sticky day with lots of red.  Everywhere.  But the tastings, the aromas and the meals to come have made and will make it worth it.

Meanwhile, I shall leave you with my recipe for Blackberry Chutney.  I conflated several recipes and ended up with something entirely different.  If you would like any of the others, do let me know.  Enjoy.

Blackberry Chutney

500g blackberries

150g sugar

2 red onions, finely chopped

juice and zest of 1 lemon

3cm fat piece root ginger

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

150mls white wine vinegar

Put all the ingredients except the vinegar into a large pan.  Stir over gentle heat until blackberries burst and juices start to run.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add vinegar and bring mixture to the boil.  Simmer very gently for as long as possible until thick – about 45mins to an hour.  Spoon into sterilised jars and seal.

Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

Saturday night we moored at Armitage, just north of the toilet factory. I love that place. The way the toilet bowls are all lined up along the back fence. The way scintillating conversation vanishes down the pan as lavatorial puns abound and we hurry past with no time to loos. Sorry. Had to be done.

Flushed with success (ok, I’ll stop now) over my dewberry moment on Sunday, I was not expecting more. Indeed, I was happy with my lot. I would have been quite content to let the Dewberry Jelly drip overnight and jam it this morning. But this is August the hedgerows are teeming. During the course of the day I had the opportunity to effect my Standing on the Roof of your Narrowboat gathering method for some wild plums which were perfectly ripe.

We ate probably more than we should have done and the rest I set aside for jam and Rumtopf. Then there were the enormous rosehips of the Japanese Rose. If Carlsberg made rosehips, then they would definitely make them like this. Obviously I found dewberries and blackberries. But what most surprised was that the elderberries were beginning to ripen. I found enough inky black ones to throw into my jam.

I needed apples too but our Bramley apple tree had shaken its branches before we left home and I had gathered a bagful of windfalls to bring with me.  As jams go, it is very tasty.  Particularly as by making it two parts the boat was filled with the scent of rosehips, apples and plums one day, then blackberries and elderberries the next.  Divine.

Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

225g Japanese Rosehips

450g Wild Plums

900g Windfall Apples / Crab Apples

300g Blackberries & Elderberries

450g Sugar

Wash fruit.  Put rosehips, plums and chopped apples (skins & cores) into a preserving pan.  Add water to cover (about 1.2 litres) and cook slowly until the fruit is tender.  Strain in a scalded jelly bag overnight.  Return strained liquid to pan with blackberries & elderberries.  Add sugar and heat gently stirring all the time until sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a fast boil and boil until setting point is reached – about 10 to 15 mins.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal.