Despite the windy weather this week I managed to venture out to collect the plump sloes I spotted earlier. In the past I have made Sloe Gin but as I am trying Bullace instead this year my sloes are destined for Sloe Jelly. Sloe Jelly is great with roast venison and even better with pigeon. To make the jelly you need to collect some apples – I use whatever comes to hand be it crab apples, cooking apples or the cider apples from the orchard. A tip to keep your jelly from going cloudy is not to squeeze the jelly bag (or muslin) at the end!
1½ lb sloes
1½ lb apples, chopped
Sugar (for every pint of strained juice use 1½ lb sugar)
Place the apples and sloes in a large jam pan (or a big heavy bottomed saucepan). Add enough water so that half the fruit is covered. Bring to the boil and then simmer until all the fruit is soft and has broken down. Pour into a jelly bag (or muslin) and leave to drip into a clean jam pan or bucket. I use muslin and stretch the piece round the top of the jam pan (not too tightly stretched) and secure it by tying with kitchen string. It can take ages to drip so I leave it over night. Measure the juice and pour into a jam pan – add 1½ lb of sugar for each pint of juice. Boil for about 10 minutes and then test for setting. When the jelly is at setting point pour into sterilised jam jars and cover. Store in a cool dark place.
Years ago sloes were used to make fake Port wine and were also added as an adulterant to impart colour and acidity to genuine port. This doesn't surprise me as Peter May of The Pinotage Club recently told Nick that he had read that it was common practice for London merchants to add colour to wine by blending in a little elderberry juice (see Nick's Blog on The Pontac Family of Haut Brion – Their Legacy: Pontac Chateaux, a London tavern, an Old English Sauce and Perhaps a Grape).
Mrs M Grieve, writing in 1931, tells us that in Kent, there were entire orchards of Elder trees cultivated solely for the sake of their fruit, which is brought regularly to market and sold for the purpose of making wine:
“The berries are not only used legitimately for making Elderberry Wine, but largely in the manufacture of so-called British wines - they give a red colour to raisin wine - and in the adulteration of foreign wines. Judiciously flavoured with vinegar and sugar and small quantities of port wine, Elder is often the basis of spurious 'clarets' and Bordeaux. 'Men of nice palates,' says Berkeley (Querist, 1735), 'have been imposed on by Elder Wine for French Claret.' Cheap port is often faked to resemble tawny port by the addition of Elderberry juice, which forms one of the least injurious ingredients of factitious port wines. Doctoring port wine with Elderberry juice seems to have assumed such dimensions that in 1747 this practice was forbidden in Portugal, even the cultivation of the Elder tree was forbidden on this account.”
I have a good recipe for Roast Duck with Elderberries here.
I also have an unusual recipe for blackberries that I spotted in our Parish Magazine. It is for Blackberry Chiffon. I had not come across the word Chiffon being used in a culinary manner before and was intrigued. Apparently Chiffon is a word used to describe a food with a light fluffy texture, usually created by the addition of whipped egg white or gelatine. It is derived from the old French word chiffe meaning ‘flimsy stuff’.
1 packet of trifle sponges or boudoir biscuits
a little sherry to moisten
1 lb blackberries
1packet of blackcurrant jelly
2 large eggs
3 oz caster sugar
Gently stew the blackberries with the sugar, drain and keep the juice (about 1/4 pint). Make the blackcurrant jelly up to 3/4 pint with the blackberry juice. (Alternatively, use gelatine, sugar and blackberry juice). Use a little of the jelly with the sherry to moisten the sponges. Leave on one side to cool but not set.
Whisk the egg yolks with sugar until thick. Separately, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Combine the yolks and jelly, then whisk into the whites. Pour over the fruit and chill. When set and cold, decorate with whipped cream.