These berries are so tiny, you may assume they have little to offer, but you’d be wrong. They’re at their best now and are magical in crumbles and pies, jams and preserves, juices and liqueurs. You have to go foraging for them, which is part of the fun (and they’re free!), but be sure they are ripe (ie dark in colour – not green) or they will give you an upset stomach. Use the prongs of a fork to remove the berries from their stalks (wear an apron because the juice resists all washing detergents) wash and use them right away, or freeze to use all winter long. Try these ideas:
Add to lighter fruits such as apples, pears or plums in a crumble, cobbler, or pie.
Stir into vanilla ice cream or add a layer to syllabub.
Use to make jam – take note though, elderberries are low in pectin, so use jam sugar or add lemon juice.
Make elderberry vinegar – taking equal volumes of berries and white wine vinegar and 1½ tbsp sugar per 250ml vinegar, first mash the elderberries and sugar together in a pan over a medium heat, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cool and mix with the vinegar, cover and set aside in a cool dark place for 3-5 days. Strain and store in a sterilised bottle.
To make a syrup – put elderberries in a pan and cover with water. bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins, mashing with a potato masher. Strain and add 100g sugar to every 100ml of liquid. Simmer until reduced and syrupy. Gorgeous in yoghurt, in a glass of prosecco, and with hot water and ginger.