Elderberry, pigeons and inspiration

It is still snowing outside and, while waiting for the springtime, I decided to cook some elderberries (Sambucus nigra) I froze last autumn. What to do with it? Even if my aunt asked for the jam, I need some more fun whilst experimenting new recipes.

Looking for inspiration I came across this old English recipe, dating back 17th century. It looks like the first inventor was a French, François-Auguste de Pontac. After being the President of Parliament in Bordeaux, he moved to London and opened the Pontack’s Head Tavern, where he proved to be a excellent cook.

Here’s where the souce was served the first time. To sum it up: french recipe kept by english tradition.

I am intensely curious, now!

Which taste should I expect?

This is a acidic and spicy sauce, perfect to go with game, lamb, pork and pigeon.

The pigeon thing intrigues me, but I’m not jet ready to go into that. I will then start with the sauce, and then we will see..

P.S. Don’t worry, auntie: half of the berries are already cooking for your jam!

Pontack sauce: my version is a little bit thicker than the original one

Ricetta della salsa Pontack

With the indicated doses I obtaine 2 small jars of sauce. After tasting it, I decided that the next year I will make at least 4 times more. It is awsome! Even my tastless pork loin became a very interesting dish. I had two portions. It went well also with the boiled meat.

Ingredients: elderberries, vinegar, shallots, onions and spices


  • 1 pound fresh elderberries (or frozen)
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • ½ pound shallots, minced
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cucchiaio di pepe nero in grani
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Take all the elderberries off the stems and rinse quickly in a colander. Look in your kitchen cupboard for a oven-proof covered casserole – I found a pyrex one which looks like being made on purpose (thanks mum!).

Put the elderberries in it, with the vinegar and cook at 250°F for 4 to 6 hours. Yes, you did read it right: 4 to 6 hours… your house will smell like fruity vinegar for a couple of days.

Pour the cooked berries through a strainer into a large bowl and, once they cool down a bit, press them with your hands, in order to get as much juice as you can. Get rid of the remainig seeds.

Decant the sauce in a pot with all the remaining ingredients (salt, scallots, spices) and gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime get ready with the mason jars, clean and sterilized.

Pour the hot sauce in the jars and seal them. Once cool, put them in your pantry. Now you should wait at least some months to taste it at its best. I could not, obviously! The first jar was emptied before dawn. It was delicious!

Preservation: this sauce has such an amount of vinegar that the botulinum risk is close to none. Tradition claims it to last at least 7 years, getting better in taste. Don’t count on it, I bet it will not last long, because it’s really great.

Check other Eldertree recipes


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