These huge sloes are ripe and ready for the picking, think sloe gin, sloe brandy, or add a few sloes to a fruit pie.
Around our area it is always a race to pick the hedgerow bounty before the farmers cut the hedges back and all is lost.
Too soon and the berries are not ripe, too late no berries to pick!
It is the most exciting season of the year.
I love the fact that preserving has changed so little over the years, traditional methods are still in use today. This is when my really old recipe books come into their own...although in this case I would advise using the modern method, unless you have a supply of bladders.
Today I thought I would share an eighteenth century recipe, for Elder Rob; you will need lots of elderberries and sugar, cloves or ginger are optional. This particular cordial is very useful for helping to fend off influenza and can help fight colds. There is some very good science behind it, regrettably I have lost the original link - although I will add it when I find it again!
Gather your elderberries full ripe, pick them clean from the stalks, put them in large stew-jars and tie paper over them. Let them stand two hours in a moderate oven. Then put them in a thin, coarse, cloth and squeeze out all the juice you can get.
Put eight quarts into a preserving pan, set it over a slow fire, let it boil till it be reduced to one quart. When it is near done, keep stirring it, to prevent it burning. Then put it into pots, let it stand two or three days in the sun; then dip a paper, the size of your pot, in sweet oil, lay it on, tie it down with a bladder, and keep it in a very dry place. Black Currant Rob is made the same way.
These are excellent diluted with water for use in feverish colds.
Modern version: (no bladders required)
Give the elderberries a brief wash to remove insects and dust, strip the berries from the stalks, using a fork, then weigh the berries.
For each 1lb of elderberries add 12oz of brown sugar, add a few cloves, or fresh ginger if you wish, bring them to the boil and pass through a sieve to get all the juice out.
Cool, and then pour into sterilised bottles. Store in a cool, dark place. Dilute a little in hot water.
Old wisdom, in a soothing drink.