Thursday 18 October 2007

"It's coming"

"what's coming?"


elderberry ketchup

About seven years ago, long before this blog started there was a good elderberry year. I know this because as well as making at least six gallons of elderberry wine I also put up a couple of bottles of a novelty preparation, an elderberry ketchup, which required to be matured for seven years before use.

This autumn we tasted some and, although it's going to be of limited benefit in the kitchen, for some things it's going to be very useful addition indeed.

This isn't a ketchup like a tomato sauce, this is an older style of flavouring, a pungent sharp liquid to be added in small quantities to your soups and stews and applied by the merest touch as a relish on sandwiches, salads and toasties. In fact, I think it would make a good base for a homemade vegan "Worcestershire" sauce with the addition of some soy sauce and a dash of tabasco. That's an exercise I will leave for the reader.

You will need an enamelled or stainless steel casserole suitable for use on the hob and the oven, or a ceramic oven casserole and a pan suitable for boiling the vinegar in.

To a kilo of elderberries, rinsed and stripped from their umbels, add a litre of vinegar and a couple of crushed cloves of garlic. Put all this in your multipurpose pan, bring to the boil slowly and then pop in a very gentle oven about 100C for six hours or so. Much easier for those of us with cast iron solid fuel stoves than a microwave I know. (If you're using a saucepan and separate casserole, bring the vinegar to the boil on the hob, pour over the berries and garlic and set into the oven for the same time). Leave the pan in the switched off oven overnight to cool down.

Next day strain the vinegar from the berries. Squash the berries hard to extract all the juice and discard the residue.

Put your flavoured vinegar back into your casserole or vinegar proof pan and add 20 cloves, 80 black peppercorns, one very finely sliced red onion (or equivalent in shallots), 10g cooking salt, half a nutmeg, grated and three or four slices of fresh root ginger. Bring it all to the boil and simmer gently for ten minutes.

I discovered while trying to measure the weight of 80 black peppercorns that they weigh about a dirham, a medieval middle eastern weight which is my new favourite unit for measuring very small quantities of spices. It's about 3g but that's very difficult to weigh even on my electronic scales so if you run out of fingers and toes just use a good dessert spoonful of black peppercorns.

Bottle your ketchup in sterile jars and seal tightly. Include all the spices, evenly distributed between the bottles. A sediment will form over time and the ketchup should be gently decanted before use. Keep seven years before tasting.

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