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This takes me right back to my childhood, when a friend's mum made elderberry soup every autumn. As well as great taste and an outstanding color, it boasted ‘floats and swans' (rusks and meringue) as decoration.
To make elderberry soup, pick a few large seed heads and rinse them well under running water. Tie the seed heads in muslin (if you don't like sieving) or just submerge the seed heads in sugar water (one liter of water with 100g caster sugar).
Bring to the boil and simmer until the berries have burst, the juice has been released and the pot looks to be full of ink. Remove the seed heads and strain the liquid through a fine sieve to remove stalks, pips and grit etc. Return the liquid to a clean pan and bring back to the boil. Reduce by about a third, and then add the juice from one lemon and sugar to taste.
Blend a tablespoon of corn flour in two tablespoons of water, and then stir this into the soup. Turn the heat down and keep stirring until the soup thickens. Taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if required. Serve with rusks and stiffly whipped sweetened egg white floating on top, or with fruit bread or brioche.
Elderberries have a shortish season (the birds usually get there first), but I'll try to make something with them each year. It could be soup, or I'll add the berries to jams or fruit pies. Alternatively, dry the berries for use in teas and as a cough treatment.