Fruit has generally been early this year. Actually, strawberries were not and our pears have yet to ripen. Perhaps what I mean is that blackberries were early this year. Therefore I was concerned that foraging for elderberries on 15th September would be too late.
I drove to my usual spot off the A58 on Sunday morning and walked to the farmer's field along Kennel Lane, noting that the few elder trees within the hedgerows had scant fruit. It was a longer walk than I had remembered - it always is. When I got to the field I made sure that the farmer was not around and began collecting elderberries. Whilst the trees were not laden with heavy bunches of dark fruit, they had sufficient for my purposes.
I noticed that many of the berries were smaller than usual and I may have done better leaving this a week. However, I three-quarters filled two plastic bags with elderberries and stalks and judged that this was probably enough.
As ever, stripping the berries was tedious, enlivened by old episodes of The Reunion
and Desert Island Discs
. It took about two hours and I ended up having picked 5 lbs 12 oz. For a double batch I should really have had 6 lbs, but I judged this Good Enough. What is 4 ounces between friends?
I crushed the berries with a potato masher in my bucket, added 5 lbs 10 oz sugar (I think) and 12 ½
pints of boiling water, stirring all round until the sugar dissolved. A teaspoon each of yeast and pectolase, and two teaspoons of nutrient went in the following morning, 16th September, and by the evening fermentation had begun.
When I remembered to, I gave the bucket a stir over the next few days and then on Friday night I transferred the liquid into its two demijohns. I have started keeping discarded fruit in a plastic bowl when I do this so that right at the end I can press it hard and collect the remaining liquid for topping up purposes. This time I weighed the discarded pulp - it was 2 lbs 8 oz. So, the liquid in each berry makes up just more than half its mass. But it is the liquid which is the important bit and I now have two demijohns full of it.
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here