22 September 2015

Elderberry sorbet

Elderflowers are very popular in early summer, when cordials, cakes and other elderflower-flavoured products abound. Their early autumn iteration, the elderberry, is comparatively neglected. This is a shame, as elderberries are tasty and very common. Elder trees are quick growing and colonize any neglected land. They can be found almost as easily in the town as the countryside. Returning from buying a paper at the weekend, I found several in a neglected plot just round the corner from my home, and picked a bag full of ripe juicy berries.

Elderberries require cooking. Eating them raw is not recommended, as they contain toxins which are destroyed by cooking. They are also quite sour, so need sugar added. The best way to process them is to add the heads of berries to a saucepan with a little water, and simmer for 15 minutes or so to break down the berries. Then push the juice and pulp through a sieve, leaving behind the pips and stalk. Add sugar to the resulting puree to taste. Elderberries have an intense fruity flavour, with just enough floral gooseberry notes to remind you that a few months earlier they were elderflowers. I am a bit of a sucker for a good sorbet, and I think the elderberries make a patrticularly good one – intense in both flavour and colour. I know I also gave a sorbet recipe in my last post on damsons, but bear with me. You can also use elderberries to flavour crumbles and other fruity desserts. (For a list of suggestions see this useful post on the Demuth’s blog).

Elderberry sorbet


A good carrier bag full of elderberries
40g caster sugar per 100g elderberry puree
25g pasteurised egg whites


An ice cream maker (you can do it by hand but it takes much more effort)

To make a decent batch of sorbet, you will need a fair few elderberries. If you can, collect a carrierbag full. (I know lots of seasoned foragers shun the use of plastic bags in favour of baskets. My advice is when picking elderberries to use bags, and save the basket for mushrooms. Elderberry juice is very rich in pigment and will stain your lovely wicker basket).

At home, submerge the elderberries in very cold water for several minutes and swill around. This should remove any insects and dirt on the elderberries.

Place the elderberries in a largish saucepan and add about 150ml water. With the lid on, bring to a simmer. Turn the gas right down, and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the elderberries look mushy.

Pour the elderberry juice through a sieve into a clean saucepan. Use a wooden spoon to push through any pulp, so that just the pips, skins and stalks are left behind.

Weigh the puree, and add 40g caster sugar for every 100g puree.

Place the puree over a very low flame, and stir until the sugar has all dissolved.

Pour the sweetened puree into a clean jug and cool as rapidly as you can. The best way to do this in a domestic kitchen is to place the jug in a bowl full of cold water. Once the puree has cooled to room temperature, place it in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours, and preferably overnight.

When you are ready to churn the sorbet, add approximately 25ml pasteurised egg white to the puree, and beat in gently with a fork.

Place the puree in your ice cream machine, and churn until frozen.

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