It’s getting to that wonderful time of year when all the berries start appearing so that means its time to get foraging.
Elderberries are an underrated fruit that come from Elder trees and start to ripen in the late-summer to autumn. The elderberries are full of vitamin C but are mildly poisonous so should always be cooked before eating.
How to identify elderberries:
Elder trees can be identified by their short trunk that has a grey-brown colour and corky-furrowed bark.
They have relatively few branches and have leaves with 5-7 pairs of leaflets. The flowers are small with 5 cream coloured petals and have a distinctive scent.
Elder trees can be confused with walnut (Juglans regia), however, elder has oppositely arranged leaves whereas walnut has alternately arranged leaves. The berries are small and dark purple and develop from where the flowers were.
Elderberry Wine Recipe
- 2½ lb elderberries
- Campden tablets
- 2½, 2¾ or 3 lb sugar (Use the lowest amount of sugar for a dry wine, next for a medium dry wine and the higher sugar for a medium sweet.)
- Wine yeast
- Yeast Nutrient
- Gloves - Particularly when handling the berries as they can die your skin a beautiful purple colour!
- Strip the elderberries from the stalks and wash well.
- Put into a fermenting bin and crush, either using gloved up hands or a potato masher!
- Pour on 4 pints of water.
- Add 1 Campden tablet, crushed and dissolved in a little warm water to kill off any wild yeasts.
- Boil half of the sugar in 2 pints of water for 2 or 3 minutes and, when cool, mix into the pulp.
- Add the yeast and nutrient and cover and allow to ferment for 5 days, stirring daily.
- Strain and press and return the liquor to a clean fermenting bin.
- Boil the rest of the sugar in 1 pint of water for 2 or 3 minutes and, when cool, add to the liquor.
- Cover again and leave for 3 or 4 days.
- Pour carefully or syphon into a gallon jar. Try and leave as much of the sediment behind as possible.
- Fill up the jar with cooled, boiled water to where the neck begins.
- Fit a fermentation lock and leave until fermentation has finished.
- Rack your wine (which means to move your wine into a fresh container) adding a Campden tablet after the first fermentation.
- Syphon into bottles.
Elderberry jam is delicious and simple to make, it’s perfect on toast or crumpets, in scones and even as a twist on a standard Victoria sponge. This is my favourite recipe from Gin and Crumpets because it is so simple.
Elderberrys can also be used in crumbles and in pies. You can follow your favourite crumble recipe but toss in some of these delicious berries in when you’re stewing your fruit.
You can also make elderberry liquor using this simple recipe!
Elders can be found in hedgerows, scrub, and woodland.