By | Alkaloids, David Lebovitz, Elderberries, Elderflowers, Gooseberries | 3 Comments

Here is a close up shot elderberries. This is the first year I’ve seen them in the farmer’s market so I snatched them up. In the spring I am forever searching for elderberry blossoms to cook with my gooseberries so I asked the grower selling them if he sold the blossoms in the spring.
“No”, he said.
“I just need a few to go with my gooseberries, ” I replied.
“No”, was the answer again.
Perhaps he thinks if he sells me a few blossoms he won’t have any fruit?

A late summer, early autumn berry, they are larger than a red currant and smaller than pea. They grow in clusters like grapes and are dark purple and stain everything they touch. According to my Oxford Companion to Food, they are not good raw as “they contain small amounts of a poisonous alkaloid, and have a sickly, unpleasant smell and taste.”
Well I didn’t notice a bad smell or taste, and yes I ate some, before I read the OCF, and I am still here. I don’t recommend it, they’re not brilliant raw and they could do you harm. If like me you missed chemistry at school check out alkaloids here.

I just had a small container of them; so I made syrup following the recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog.
Of course I didn’t have that many elderberries but this is the advantage of kitchen scales. I weighed the berries after I’d removed them from the stalks, not as hard as David makes it out to be, but I had less berries to pick over and I hadn’t harvested my own.
Then I added the same weight of water and when they were cooked, used half their original weight in sugar.  While the syrup looks a lot like cassis, blackcurrant syrup, but it has its unique taste that matches perfectly with peaches. So far I’ve added a few spoonfuls to the warm syrup after poaching peaches and I poured it over my blackberries and the few homegrown figs I’ve harvested before the squirrel. More about Jennifer vs the squirrel in another post.

I’ve included this photo to give you an idea of the colour. In the glass jar, now residing in my refrigerator, the colour is so dense that no light can pass through and it is just an inky purple. Next time if I can buy more I may try a peach and elderberry pie, or even elderberry wine.