Elderberries add unique flavour to ciders, soups
I tasted elderberries for the first time in John Rufa’s Elderberry Cider from Kawartha Country Wines, $4 per bottle, in a six-bottle case. This is locally made apple cider infused with elderberry juice. What a lovely flavour! I love cider because it’s refreshing, tasty, light, and unlike beer, gluten-free!
Our Indigenous people used every part of the elderberry shrub for living, including the making of tools made from the branches, such as arrow shafts and pipes. Its black berries were also used for eating and medicinal properties.
Elderberries are an excellent source of fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and beta-carotene. The juice has antiinflammatory, antiviral, antiseptic, anticancer, and detoxifying properties. The skin’s flavonoids are antioxidant rich, thus helping to prevent cell damage.
The cider itself is fermented from pure apple juice, and so offers the same health benefits as apple juice. Cider also contains lots of vitamin C and antioxidants, as well. In fact hard cider outweighs green and black tea in antioxidants. Basically sipping cider in moderation and with food is downright healthy, in my wino opinion!
Its health benefits are only one reason why I sip cider. I love its taste and also love that this beverage has a natural affinity to blue cheese.
Harmonizing hors d’oeuvres include: Blue Cheese, Apple and Sage Honey Crostini; Blue Cheese and Bacon Focaccia. And soups? How about Broccoli and Stilton Soup, Potato Soup with Blue Cheese and Bacon, and Spinach and Blue Cheese Soup?
Elderberry cider also works with recipes including the same berry! A fresh salad of greens with chucks of Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts drizzled in Elderberry and Balsamic Vinaigrette will complement this cider.
If you can get your hands on fresh elderberries, it’s worth making a classic Pontack Sauce, a 17th century English ketchup. This ketchup is fruity, pungent, and spicy and so nicely offsets the hint of sweetness in Rufa’s Elderberry cider. Add a dollop of this sauce to slow roasted pork belly, duck, and lamb.
Here is a simple recipe:
1 lb. fresh elderberries 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. cider vinegar 7 oz. shallots, peeled and sliced 6 cloves 4 allspice berries 1 blade of mace 1 tbsp. black peppercorns 1/2 oz. fresh ginger, bruised Place the washed elderberries in an ovenproof glass dish with the vinegar. Cover and cook in the oven at 250F for 4 to 6 hours. Remove from the oven and strain through a sieve, crushing the berries with a potato masher as you do so to obtain maximum juice.
Put the juice in the sauté pan along with the sliced shallots, cloves, allspice, mace, peppercorns, and ginger. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the mixture through a sieve.
Return the juice to the pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes until reduced again. Pour the sauce into a warm, sterilized bottle. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.
Elderberries can be used to make a flavourful wine and cider.