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Bittersweet elderberry and blackberry jam
Every year I've vowed to make something with elderberries

An entire weekend of foraging went into this batch of elderberry and blackberry jam. I've loved elderberries ever since I was five years old, when my Dad picked me a big bunch from a tree down the road from our house.

Every year I've vowed to make something with elderberries and this year I finally got round to it. Elderberries are sharp and bitter in taste, yet they are extremely juicy and are said to guard against colds and flu. I've added blackberries to this recipe to mellow out the sharpness of the elderberries.

You can use ordinary eating apples if you can't get your hands on crab apples; this will also speed up the preparation process. However, you will appreciate the jam all the more if you dedicate a day to picking every ounce of berries needed for the recipe.

Ingredients

600g elderberries

400g blackberries

1kg crab apples peeled and diced

750g jam sugar

zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon

300ml water

Method

First place a few saucers in the freezer to use later to test if the jam has set.

Pick the elderberries off their stalks by raking through the branches with a fork. Wash them thoroughly and add to a preserving pan with the water. Heat gently for about five minutes. Add eight ounces of the sugar along with the blackberries and chopped apples.

Increase the heat to a boil, then turn the heat back down and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.

Strain the mixture into a bowl, return the fruit to the pan and crush ever so slightly with a wooden spoon.

Return the juice to the pan with the remaining sugar and boil for 10 minutes, stirring all the time with a long wooden spoon to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

If you have a sugar thermometer, test to see if the jam is done. It is usually set when it has reached 104 degrees celsius.

Alternately, remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, drop some jam onto one of the cold saucers. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then push the jam gently with your finger. If it wrinkles then it has set, otherwise return the pan to the heat for a further three minutes before testing again.

Wash the glass jars and their lids in warm soapy water, rinse and then dry with a clean tea towel.

Turn the oven temperature to 130 degrees with fan and place the glass jars in a shallow tray of water and leave for 30 minutes. Spoon the jam into the jars while they are still hot and screw the lids on immediately.

Label the jars and store in a cool dry place. Once opened, keep refrigerated.

The jam is delicious served with a batch of freshly baked scones or on pancakes for breakfast.

Spread between the layers of a victoria sponge cake or stir into a bowl of creamy rice pudding.