Wet Year Brings Bountiful Elderberries to Pennsylvania

Weather is interesting to many people because it’s always changing. Daily and seasonal cycles bring changes to the weather. Outdoor activities often depend on the weather being suitable, and if it’s extremely hot or cold you’ll find many of us indoors.

If I remember correctly, 2008 is a La Nina year. For the Northeastern United States a La Nina year means the summertime weather is cooler and wetter than usual. I would say that has been true this year.

We have had a few spells of hot weather in the 90s, but those extremes were tempered with nighttime rains. I’m not sure that we’ve had an abundance of rain in 2008, but we have been blessed with rainfall quite often during these summer months.

The garden tomatoes and peppers are just now coming off and the garlic fizzled out. Just not hot enough for those guys to produce a bumper crop. The corn is fantastic in all of Pennsylvania this year. The rains have produced plants well over my head, perhaps 12 feet tall with 3-4 ears on each stalk.

Cooking some water-soaked corn right in the husk over an open fire can’t be beat! Just delicious!

Elderberries hid well for a while until I realized that they like growing in semi-wet areas. The elderberries on our land grow along the lane where they receive runoff from the spring and in the wetland area that is just to the north of the pond, which is really a catchment basin. The rainwater that drains from the dirt road travels in culverts into this wetland area before trickling into the pond. Here, I found four elderberry plants loaded with berries.

The farmer’s land just to our south has a few really nice elderberry bushes next to a small stream. Some of those went into my first Elderberry Jelly. What a nice berry flavor!

Elderberries weigh down the branches.

Near a small stream deep purple elderberries weigh heavy on the branches.

A 5-gallon bucket of elderberry clusters was a lot to work with and it took a few hours to twist off the berries. All those berries filled a 4 quart Dutch oven and half-filled a 2-gallon metal pail.

Elderberries in abundance.

Sixteen pints of elderberries plucked from their clusters.

Wide-mouth pint jars were filled with elderberries, a pinch of purified sea salt was added on top and the jar was filled with water before putting on the lid. Each jar was preserved in a pressure cooker by heating the canner up to pressure, turning off the heat and letting the jars stay at pressure for 25 minutes.

Elderberries in jar ready to be preserved.

Salted, elderberry and water-filled jar ready for preserving.

That five gallons of elderberry clusters made 16 pints of berries, 14 of which are preseved in jars for making pies or other treats in the future, and the remaining two were used to make Elderberry Custard Pies – one pint of berries to a pie. Just delicious!

Take your favorite custard pie recipe, pour the custard over a pint of berries in a blind-baked pieshell, and you’re in for a treat.

Elderberry Custard Pie!

The last piece of Elderberry Custard Pie!

The first pie was nearly gone before I got out the camera, and the second pie went to the farmer whose elderberries were harvested the day before. After tasting the pie he exclaimed that he didn’t know elderberries could taste so good! He said he won’t be taking down that Elderberry bush afterall!

4 thoughts on “Wet Year Brings Bountiful Elderberries to Pennsylvania”

  1. It’s amazing what is growing out in the world and how some people don’t even use what they have. I haven’t yet picked elderberries but I think that I will see if they are still around. I knew that you could use them medicinally but didn’t realize that they made good pies. I am inspired — and it’s another way to use my pressure cooker.

  2. Hello Jill!

    Depending on your location you may still find Elderberries for the picking. If you’re in Northern California you’re probably in luck. Here in Central PA, I’ll be picking more today for a second batch of jelly.

    Elderberries are too bitter to be eaten raw, but after cooking and sweetening them a bit, they have a rich berry flavor.

    Let us know if you try preserving and using them in your kitchen!

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