Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elderberry or Sambuco Jam




We've been busy making elderberry jam lately. The trees have been heavily laden this year as we have had a warm summer, with enough rain to finish them off leaving them pleasingly plump and  delectable. Just right for the picking. Elderberry or Sambuco as they are known in Italy whose name derives  from their Latin name of sambucus nigri, is such a giving tree. Fragrant lacy flower fronds in the spring give way to pendulant purple clusters in the late summer or early autumn. Elder flower syrup in spring and blackberry type jam in the autumn. I keep a watchful eye on my local trees to make sure no beats me to the tasty morsels as has happened in the past. This understory tree grows to decent enough height that there is no chance that we get to them all and so there are always plenty of berries to share with our feathered friends.

We were quite fortunate the other night to have our guests join in on the fun of pulling the small sometimes resistant berries off, thereby halving the time it normally takes us  to prepare them as well has having a laugh as we all ended up with purple stained hands.


Elderberry or Sambuco Jam

2 kilo clean elderberries ( I rinse them to remove as much small stems and debris as possible)
1 kilo sugar
1-2 T lemon juice, optional 

Place your cleaned fruit in a heavy bottomed pot.
Smash fruit with a hand potato smasher
(this brings out the juice and speeds up the time it takes bring the fruit to a boil)
On medium to high heat, bring the fruit and juices to a rolling boil.
Boil the mix down till a good portion of the fruit syrup has evaporate.
Your time will vary depending on the amount of liquid, but you can figure at least an hour, maybe more. I usually make about 4 kilos at a time and it can take almost two hours to get the mixture cooked down.
Once you have cooked ost of the moisture away, but it is still loose, add the sugar
Stir well, bring back up to a full bol taking care not to let it boil over.
When the mixture comes to a full boil, turn your heat down and let the mixture simmer.
Pay closer attention to your mixture now as it can easily boil over or stick to the bottom  and burn.
Cook until it has thickend and mixture is the consistency of thick gruel.
Add the lemonjuice towards the end of the cooking period. I like to use it to cut through the sweetness and brighten the elderberry flavor. 
I like to use a candy thermomenter to keep track of it. I make sure the temperature reaches at least 200* F and maybe a little more. I don't cook mine as mucy as I used to as I like a looser jam instead of the very firm one. You can also pour some on a  plate to see if it has thickened to your favored texture. Again this may take an hour or so. You need to pay closer attention to it as this point, so that it doesn't burn.
Fill your hot sterilized jars and close with a fresh lid.
Gently boil  the jars submerged in hot waterfor at least 20 minutes.
Remove gently from the water
Turn upside down to cool and insure the seal of the jar. 

Note: I can make up to 4 kilos of fruit in my pot in the photo, so I just always use the 2:1 fruit to sugar ratio. Sometime I will cut the sugar back slightly if the fruit seems sweet. Lemon juice helps cut the sweetness and intensifies the flavor of the fruit I think. I use about 1 tablespoon per kilo of fruit, but of course you can do it to taste too.



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