Elderberries - perennial favorite for pies, jelly

Many people remember the small, sweet wild elderberries that ripen in early fall on large, dense bushes. They flourish along country roads, in woods and parks, along creeks, and in marshes.

Each stem holds a large circular bunch of berries. They are free for the picking, unless on private property, and they are well worth a sunny afternoon's drive into the country.

Elderberries can be prepared and cooked in almost the same way as blueberries or, if dried, as raisins or currants. A tantalizing memory of mine is elderberry pie chock full of berries and juicy with syrup. These berries have a natural sweetness and need only a small amount of sugar.

Today's cooks will not see many recipes featuring elderberries, but ask any grandmother. She's likely to remember. A few large farmer markets sell them, and they are much cheaper than other berries.

When you find elderberries, pick the stems which hold the wide clusters of berries. When ripe they are almost black. To use, simply strip the berries off with your fingers into containers. Pick out any leaves and rinse in cool water; they are ready to use in baking or for jelly. Mama's Elderberry Pie Pastry for 9-inch double crust 4 cups elderberries, stemmed and rinsed 3/4 cup sugar 3 tablespoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons flour Butter or margarine

Line pie pan with pastry. Lightly mix berries with sugar, lemon juice, and flour. Pour into crust. Dot with butter or margarine. Cover with crust, pinch edges together, prick with fork several times.

Bake in 450-degree F. oven for 10 minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees F., and bake 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream. Elderberry Muffins 2 cups all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup milk 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine 1 cup cleaned elderberries

Mix 1/4 cup flour with elderberries, set aside. Sift together remaining flour , baking powder, and sugar. Add eggs to milk and melted butter, stir well. Stir into flour mixture, mix until just moistened.

Fold in elderberries. Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F. 15 minutes or until light brown. Makes 12. Apple-Elderberry Jelly 2 quarts cleaned elderberries (8 cups) 8 peeled, sliced apples (medium size) 2 quarts water Sugar Lemon juice

Grind, or chop in blender, berries and apples together. Add water and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Pour into jelly-bag, or use a large piece of cheesecloth, tying the corners together securely.

Suspend bag over pan or bowl and let drip overnight. Squeeze bag until all juice is released.

To each cup juice add 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Discard pulp.

Bring to a rolling boil and continue boiling briskly until syrup forms a coating on a cold spoon.

Skim, pour into sterilized jelly jars, and seal.

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