Sunday, August 24, 2014

Autumn Olive Season

Our Elaeagnus [pronounced Elly Agnus] berries are ripening all over the place.   The ones at the top of the hill ripen faster than the ones in other places and it's a good year for them so the three of us grabbed buckets and spent a happy half hour harvesting. 

Really ripe berries will just fall off the clusters into your buckets.    Those are the sweetest ones. 

Once you get the berries, you can cook them up and sieve the seeds out [see link above] and then make fabulous stuff with the pulp.    Yum!

You need to know a couple of things about these berries.

1.  They're tart!   Don't skimp on the sugar.   If you're making up your own recipes, then you need enough sugar for the grey-ish juice to turn red.   If you don't have enough sugar, you'll still see sort of a gray juice hanging around near the top.   Add just enough sugar for that to go away.   I generally use as much sugar as I have elaeagnus pulp in the recipe. 

2.  They vary on how much pectin is in them from year to year.   The first year I made jam with them, I used pectin and it made a super hard jam.   The next year I didn't use pectin and it was perfect.   Last year I made jam with no pectin and it's still runny.   This year I used less pectin than normal and got a good jam, not too hard.     You can use a greater percentage of unripe berries to increase the pectin, but then you'd better use more sugar [see #1.]

Here's last year's recipe for Elaeagnus Orange Ginger Jam.  I have a recipe with pectin and a recipe without. 

I've been experimenting this year, so stay tuned for recipes for these awesome mixed fruit jams with elaeagnus, coming up in the next week. 

[UPDATE:   Here are the links to these recipes]

Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Peach Jam
Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Apple Jam
Elaeagnus (Autumn Olive) Raspberry Jam

They are all delicious combinations and have passed the family taste test with rave reviews.   Who knew these wild berries would be so versatile?!

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