Do you have a garden this year? Maybe you just have one tomato plant in a pot out on the patio, or maybe you’re into large-scale farming. Perhaps you have a generous neighbor who shares the extra zucchini with you.
My brother, Mervin Hart, is into full-time homesteading. He and his wife Lois live just outside of Henderson and have a big garden, chickens, goats, cows, pigs, grandchildren and dogs. Lois is a doctor of naturopathic medicine, and he is retired (meaning he just doesn’t get paid for working!). After they’ve been out tending to all the chores, you can imagine how hot and sweaty they must be! He shared his secret for cooling off after all that hot activity. It’s an old-time concoction called “shrub.”
Two parts of juice (his favorite is muscadine)
One part apple cider vinegar
One part sugar (if you’re using unsweetened juice)
Mix these together, and then add enough water to cut it to a strength you can handle, usually two or three times the amount of the shrub. You can drink it chilled or at room temperature. Either way, give it a try. The grandkids love it too!
Another unique idea is to make jelly from the wild elderberries that are getting ready about now.
3 to 4 pounds ripe elderberries
¼ c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 pkg. powdered pectin (like Sure-Jell)
4½ c. sugar
¼ tsp. butter (to keep the jelly from boiling over)
Rinse the berries in a sink full of cool water, watching for any little bugs that might have come along for the ride. Remove and discard the stems. An easy way to do this is to rake the tines of a fork across the clusters to pull the berries off the stems.
Place the berries in a large pot and crush them with a potato masher to release the juice. Over medium heat, continue crushing them as your berries heat. Once the berries and juice have reached the boiling point, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Strain the berries and juice through a jelly bag. This will likely take about an hour. You will need three cups of juice to make one batch of jelly. (If you have extra, don’t try to double the recipe because it just won’t jell. Save it for another batch or use it to make shrub or elderberry syrup.)
Prepare five or six half-pint canning jars by sterilizing the jars in boiling water and washing the lids in hot soapy water.
Put the three cups of juice into a large pot with tall sides (8-quart size ought to do it). Add the lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the sugar and butter. Stir and bring it back up to a boil. Keep a close eye on it so it won’t foam so much that it boils over! As soon as your mixtures reaches the roiling-boil point (where you can’t stir it down), time it for exactly one minute and then remove from heat.
Pour the mixture into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth. Center the lid on the jar and secure with a jar ring. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for five minutes. When the five minutes are up, remove the jars from the pot and place them on a cooling rack. Let cool completely and then check your seals. If you find that one of them didn’t seal, just put it in the fridge and use that one first.