Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Elderberry Compote (also known as jam that hasn't set)

It is Shrove Tuesday 2011 and after twittering to others about how delicious my elderberry compote is on pancakes, I am inspired to put fingers to keys and share the recipe.

Delicious, almost free, long-lasting and SO easy to make! And, unlike my many other attempts at creating the perfect preserve, is always a resounding success. The secret being that it's not meant to set so it can't ever go wrong. I love recipes like that.

Obviously now is completely the wrong time of year to be out gathering elderberries but maybe the recipe below will spark a little thought when you next see those tantalising juicy berries hanging from the trees.

How to make your elderberry compote...

Gather as many berries as you can carry - but always leave some for the birds. I hate to see trees that have been stripped bare of their provinder. And make sure the berries in the bunches are ripe - it's disappointing to get home thinking you've got a great haul only to find that too many of them green and unusable (and it feels awful knowing they're wasted).

Once home, gently prise the berries from the stalks with your fingers. You can use a fork to tease them off but I've found that leads to too many stalks landing in the bowl - though that could just be me. Don't get too precious about the whole thing - it's meant to be easy and relaxed.

Next, give them a rinse and pop them in a heavy bottomed jam pan with approx equal amounts of sugar (or a bit less if you're feeling virtuous). DON'T panic that it looks too dry! The water on the berries will create enough liquid and if you add any more it will be too runny (I've done this several times and always regretted it. Restraint! Restraint!).

Check the temperature with a jam thermometer if you have one, or do the old saucer in the freezer trick (drop a little of the gooey liquid onto a very cold saucer, if it clings to the surface it's probably done). Remember it won't set (mine never has anyway!) but if you follow basic jam making principles it will work. Get it bubbling away with all the sugar disolved and smelling gorgeous. 
Pop it into jars that have been sterilised in the dishwasher (lazy but good option) and then heated through in a low oven so they don't shatter when you add the compote. Seal with wax discs and jar lids and label up.

Gorgeous & delicious!

How to use your elderberry compote...

You can use the compote in very many ways too...

Marbelled through whipped cream and served with homemade meringue is one of my favourites or, of course, today being Shrove Tuesday, served on hot fresh pancakes... mmmmmmmmm.

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