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14 responses to “Berries of the Central Valley”

  1. Joshua

    Cool post! I’ll add a tip that I just learned: When you get home, throw the elderberry umbels in the freezer, then the next day pull them out, & they come off much easier!

    Also, I’m personally offended that you didn’t include my blackberry recipe for robitussin.

  2. adele

    Ooh. That panna cotta looks lovely.

    I only know of one blackberry bush in my neighborhood: it grows in the front yard of a house that I pass on my morning run. Fortunately, the house is up for sale and looks to be unoccupied, so I don’t feel bad about stopping to pick any ripe berries on my way back!

  3. Andy

    Excellent post, Hank. Long time reader, only one previous comment. I live in West Sac, and there were tons of elderberries along the levees this year (and presumably every year). Already made your pontack, have a liquor in the works–actually two, one batch is infusing in brandy and I’m not sure whether it will be an infused brandy or an elderberry infused brandy liquor. Today I tried my hand at a green grape and elderberry jelly recipe from the internets that looked pretty good, and it gave me an excuse to use up some of the glut of grapes growing at la casa. Used pectin, so it seems to have set up already. One trick that saved a decent amount of time was using the power of Jack Lalanne to extract the elderberry juice, though you still have to pick them off of the stems.

    Elderberry/Green Grape recipe

    2.5 cups of both grape juice and elderberry juice (this is from about 3 pounds of each)
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    7 cups sugar
    1 box pectin

    bring everything but the sugar to a hard boil, add sugar, boil 2 minutes, then seal. Green grapes don’t bring much flavor to the party, so the elderberries are the star. Made 8 half pints, with the skimmings for tomorrow’s toast.

  4. Mari

    I did the freezing thing, made removing the berries much easier. Ended up destemming as much as I could then smashing the berries up with sugar and straining out all the solids (best way I could figure out to remove all the stems for safety). Used the juice to make 2 jars of elderberry liquor.

    Can you talk about why water mixed with just a tiny bit of purple elderberry juice turns bright blue? I didn’t expect it and it was pretty incredible.

  5. rebecca

    I can’t believe they’re done in the CV– here in SoCal there are still tons of green ones. Usually in the spots where I go to gather them, no less :). This state never fails to amaze me with its diversity.

    And thank you for all the elderberry recipes– I’m so used to using things medicinally that I’m only just getting into the idea of using them as food too!

  6. TommyP

    What’s that old saying Hank? “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the post?” Great stuff!

  7. Victor

    Another great post. I can’t wait to see what other berries you picked and what you have done with them. I have never tried elderberries, but would like to after this post. What kind of an area do they grow in? I live in Napa and would like to search locally. Where should I start looking?

  8. Victor

    I was just up on the upper sac around castle craggs fishing. I probably past many plants not realizing what they were or paid attention. damn. lol thanks for the info hank.

  9. Andy

    The grapes are in there for two reasons–neither particularly exciting:

    1. I didn’t have enough elderberries for a larger batch of jelly, as I got overly ambitious with the pontack and the different liquors, so I figured I might get more bang for the buck if I combined them with the grapes.

    2. I have a heckuva lot of grapes, and I’m trying to find something to do with them. Their flavor isn’t very “grapey,” but they were planted when I moved into the new house this year and I’m not about to look a gift grape in the mouth. Might do a grape chutney or use them as a base for another preserve with another fruit.

  10. Joshua

    Hank, thanks for the tip, and thank goodness I didn’t do that trick with the whole batch – I did half and half, to compare.

  11. Cork@Cork'sOutdoors

    …and there I was thinking 2 lbs of blackberries collected along with a day’s limit of rainbow trout would suffice…I’ll have to start collecting much earlier in the season, Hank.

    Great recipes I’m looking forward trying out this fall!

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  13. Ken albala

    Signor, Have you headed Stockton Way? If there are enough berries, I think an eau de vie might be really interesting, if your willing to join me. Or am I dreaming about such volumes? The blackberries that used to line the levee are all gone alas. And I have no idea where to find them now. Grapes though, around Cosumnes can be quite lush. There’s an idea.

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