My husband and I share a love built on mutual understanding, respect and a deep and abiding love for Monty Python.
He came late to this love. On October 19, 1991, Marcus was on a University of Tennessee band bus headed home from Birmingham, Alabama. A cloud of gloom had settled over everyone - if there's one thing that native Knoxvillians loathed in the 1990s more than anything else, it was being a Volunteer fan who's team has just lost to the Crimson Tide. Into the depths of despair came a bright light emanating from the TVs on the bus. Marcus was lying there, half asleep in his chair and he looks up to a movie where a one armed Black Knight is yelling "I've been hurt worse". It was so bizarre, yet so giddily funny that he couldn't turn away.
My love for Monty Python came from my father. My Dad is a dork but I mean that in the best, most lovable kind of way. At the age of 16 though, he was just annoying - mainly because he existed and he was my dad. A sixteen year old's scorn has no bounds. He watched the weirdest movies and thought the most inane things were funny. But one day I came into the room when he was watching a movie and heard this "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." I mean, how could you not love a movie like that?
Since then, I've had a strange fascination with Monty Python and elderberries in particular. I've been thinking about planting them in my yard just so I could taste them. If we traveled to any out of town farmers markets, I looked for them. I bought a blouse once because the catalog color was elderberry. If my husband and I are fighting, all one of us to say to diffuse it is to insult the other by telling them that their mother was a hamster and that their father smelt of elderberries.
We were at the Market Square farmers' market a few weeks ago and one of my favorite farmers had a basket full of the most vivid, yet delicate looking berries I had very seen. If lace was turned into berries, those berries were what it would look like. I'm a sucker for anything novel at the market so I asked him what they were. When he told me "Elderberries" I swooned. And promptly bought four pounds.
I got home, spread a sheet on the couch, popped in Monty Python's Holy Grail and proceeded to strip berries off the stems. FOR THREE HOURS!!!
They're such gorgeous berries though and I wish I could make a lipstick out of them.
Four pounds of berries gave me roughly 2 cups of juice. Be careful with this stuff. When I got done, it looked like I had massacred an alien with deep fuchsia blood in parts of my kitchen. To extract the juice, I put the berries in medium saucepan with a quarter cup of sugar and a half cup of water. I turned the heat on medium and brought everything to a boil and let it simmer for five minutes. Then I used a sieve to drain the juice. If you want perfectly clear jelly, don't do what I did which was to push the berries to extract every last bit of juice. I was more concerned with having enough juice to make the jelly.
I tasted the juice after it was extracted and immediately got very nervous because there was a strong, bitter component to it. I almost cried at the thought of all that work being for naught. My husband suggested that I had nothing left to lose but a bit of sugar so why not see if it that made it taste alright. I've never had this happen before but as soon as I added enough sugar, the bitterness went almost completely away and I can't taste it in the finished product at all.
I love this jelly. It's the most vibrant, glistening shade of purple I think I've ever seen. It's delicious on scones and right at home in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I'm going to be on the lookout for an easier way to extract the juice but as long as I can find elderberries, I'll be making this jelly every year.
In fact, I think it's time to finally order those bushes and plant them in the yard!
Monty Python Jelly
Adapted from the Pomona Pectin blackberry jelly instructions
Note - I made this jelly using Pomona Pectin. It's become my go-to pectin to use in most of my canning and I love the fact that low sugar jams are cinch with it!
2 cups elderberry juice
2.5 tablespoons lemon juice
2.5 cups sugar (use more or less depending on how sweet you like your jelly-this includes the 1/4 cup of sugar used earlier)
2 teaspoons pectin powder
2 teaspoons calcium water
Measure the juice into a pan with lemon juice. Add calcium water into mixture and stir well. Measure sugar into a bowl and mix pectin powder into it. Bring juice to a boil, add the pectin sugar mixture and stir vigorously one to two minutes to dissolve the pectin. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed. Return to boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat. Fill jars. If canning, please follow rules for canning jellies & jams from Ball Blue Book or Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.