It’s the end of summer, and now in addition to the nearly unmanageable amounts of produce coming out of the allotment (why did I plant so much squash?), we now have the bounty of the English hedgerows. Conditions this summer have been perfect for fruit; the trees are full, and the birds and animals are stuffing themselves silly. So are the people: a patch of rough ground nearby is covered in brambles, and there are usually two or three people out picking blackberries for jam, crumbles, pies, liqueurs and other delights. I’ve canned three pints of blackberries and I’ll be gathering sloes to make sloe gin in a month or two, but today we went out looking for elderberries.
Elder trees are plentiful in the countryside, easy to find in parkland and peeping over the walls of gardens. We walked out to Basing Fen this morning in search of nice ripe berries, but the trees were surrounded by impenetrable thickets of brambles and nettles. We enjoyed the walk but found some good berries on the way back home.
Elderberries are tiny and fiddly to pick. We brought scissors along to snip off the bunches of berries, and when I got them home, I used a fork to push the berries off their stems. After a little work picking out unripe berries and the occasional stray earwig, they were ready to use.
My son was keen to make elderberry pancakes, and that is one of the easiest and most tasty ways to use the fresh berries. I’ll keep another cup of berries in the fridge to make more pancakes later this week, but I plan to dry the rest in my food dehydrator. They turn into tiny currant-like raisins and are excellent in any cake recipe that calls for dried fruit.
These are American pancakes with baking powder. The rest of my English family likes to top them with sugar and lemon juice, but I think they’re best with a pat of butter and some maple syrup.
1 cup plain or all-purpose flour (about 160 grams)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk (6 ounces)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 to 1 cup elderberries
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Add egg and milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Stir in melted butter, then gently fold in the elderberries.
Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet on medium heat, then drop in 1/3 cup pancake batter. My skillet can hold 3 pancakes at a time if I arrange them carefully. Cook the pancakes, adjusting heat if necessary, until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops are nearly dry and bubbles have appeared. Flip the pancakes over to brown the other side, then remove to a plate.