It has been an extraordinary year for elderberries here in England! I have a big batch of Elderberry Wine brewing, I’ve made an Elderberry Soda, Elderberry Winter Tonic, and now also a traditional English condiment– Pontack Sauce, aka Elderberry Ketchup.
What I love about this sauce is that it doesn’t have any added sugar, it keeps forever, and has a nice tangy flavor reminiscent of Worcestershire Sauce– but with berries. It’s fairly simple to make, and goes really well with game meats.
This is a recipe adapted from two different versions, found in Food DIY and River Cottage Preserves. Quite a few people have asked me to share more traditional English recipes. I’ll be honest– I am not a huge fan of English food. But what I do love is the use of foraged and traditional ingredients, which are making a huge resurgence. This is wonderful! I had never heard of Pontack Sauce before moving to England, but am pleased to have two bottles that will last us for a long time. If you have elderberries in your area, I would encourage you to try this!
Pontack Sauce (Elderberry Ketchup)
What You’ll Need:
- 2 pounds fresh elderberries, or 12 ounces dried elderberries
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar (white wine vinegar will also work)
- 1 pound shallots, minced
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
What to Do:
- Using a fork, strip the berries from their stems. The stems are slightly toxic, so do your best to remove as much as possible.
- Put the berries in a dutch oven or glass casserole dish with a lid. Add the vinegar, and bake in the oven for 4-6 hours at 325º. The smell is really pleasant– more yeasty than vinegar-y, and of course nice and fruity.
- Strain the berries out with a sieve, pressing to get all of the juice. Some preparations make use of a blender here, which will yield a thicker sauce. But I just pressed the berries a bit for their juice. Return the juice to your dutch oven or to a sauce pan.
- Add the shallots and spices to the elderberry juice, and bring to a boil over medium heat on the stove. Reduce heat and let simmer for 25 minutes. Strain out the shallots and spices, and bring to the boil again, for five minutes.
- Bottle your sauce into sterilized glass vessels. I think that these swing-top bottles are really perfect, but you can also use mason jars.
- Give it time to mature. Right after it’s done, the shallot flavor is quite sharp, and this will mellow and the sauce improves over time– years, even. This is shelf-stable for many, many years, so take your time.
If you have elderberries in your area, or you can get them dried, I hope you’ll try this sauce. I can’t help thinking that a version of this made with cherries would also be wonderful…