Or how the Trowel and Son went foraging and found lots of cool berries.....
Sunday ds was home sick and after a morning hacking out a lung he was feeling chipper enough to take advantage of a brief spell of sun. We grabbed up an ice cream pail, wicker basket and a set of clippers and set off down the railroad tracks to see what we could find. (Should have also taken garden gloves, but I get ahead of myself...)
I had been reading about elderberry syrup and the good it can do with coughs, colds and flu. While driving down the highway Friday I had seen numerous elderberry trees full of fruit, the only question was were there any close to home within walking distance? With ds's cough and the sightings of berries in mind off we went with elderberries being the foraging target.
About 3 'blocks' along we spotted a bank covered with huge Oregon grapes! WOW! MIL makes jelly from these so I knew that we would have to stop on the way home and harvest some of these too.
Ds was having blast finding old railroad spikes and tossing them into the basket. We spotted one elderberry tree with only a few bunches up high, managed to clip a few, not many. Keep on trucking... Then we spotted another bunch of Oregon grapes. Ds had to give up his basket with the idea that we would pick up the pile of spikes on the way back and he could carry them in his sweatshirt. Started picking the fruit only to discover they are REALLY prickly. This could explain MIL's comment about having older ds pick them for her during his visit LOL! Next time we are out foraging must add gloves to equipment.
Finally we spotted an elderberry bush/tree that was just LOADED. Whooo-wee! Foraging heaven. We clipped and clipped until the ice cream pail was full. Now we started back home with the plan to finish filling the basket of Oregon grapes at the first place. Ds took one look at his 'collection' of spikes and decided on bringing home only three instead of the pile he had found. Good choice babe.
While we were busy picking (Okay, I was picking and ds was watching) the Oregon grapes a fellow walking the tracks stopped to see what we were up to. We had an interesting talk about foraging in general and exactly how I was going to prepare the Oregon grape jelly. He headed back to his campsite to get his own pail to give it a try himself.
Once we were home I spent quite a while pulling the Oregon grapes off their stems, then washing them and cooking them down with a little water. Put them in cheese cloth to let them drip and moved onto the elderberries. O.M.G.!!! Talk about an exercise in patience!!! Elderberry bushes are poisonous; leaves, twigs, seeds etc., so I was being careful to remove all stemmy bits, only problem is the berries themselves are the size of the glass pinheads on sewing pins. Now imagine an ice cream bucketful...... Thank heavens for DVDs. They did finally get done, cooked down, and hung to drip too.
One note that Oregon grapes really really really stain. Keep it in mind :o)
Today I cooked up the jelly, 1 cup of sugar for every cup of juice. Boiled it 10 minutes to get it to jell, tested it by putting a teaspoonful onto a cold plate I had placed in the fridge to see if it jelled, poured it into sterile jars, added hot lids, and processed it for 10 minutes. Jelled up really well and Granny, who stopped into bring us some garlic for seed, said it tasted like grape jelly. Whew!
The elderberries were only to be a syrup so no need to make it jell, again 1 cup of sugar per one cup of juice, just brought it to a boil and then canned it. If we had had honey I would have used that instead as local honey is good for illness too. (we don't have any toddlers or babies who need to avoid honey to worry about either)
Next up is making elderberry tincture which sounds very good for you and easy to do, I just need to buy brandy, which I am completely stumped about. Any hints? Maybe Granny has some she could part with, hmmmmm....
Notes to self: 1 bucket elderberries = 2 cups juice, + 2 cups sugar= 4 half-pints of syrup: 1 basket Oregon grapes, about 1 bucketful = 3 cups juice + 3 cups sugar = 4 half-pints of jelly