Make the most of dark, fragrant elderberries while they’re in season.
Cooking with elderberries can get messy but it’s worth it. They’re full of health-giving properties and have been used medicinally for centuries. There are lots of elderberry recipes out there but here are our favourites.
Elderberry identification: a quick guide
Shrub or small tree
Pinnate leaves with 5 or 7 toothed leaflets
Leaflets oppositely arranged
Pale, corky bark
Clusters of small purple-black berries on red-pink stalks.
Berries ripen July-October depending on where you live
Pick the clusters by breaking off the large stem – they should snap off of the branches easily. Shake off any insects.
The easiest way to remove the berries from the stalks is to strip them using the prongs of a fork. If you can’t use them straight away the berries can be frozen and used later.
Elderberries and ginger may have anti-viral properties, so get ready for winter and make a stash ofelderberry syrup. Add cinnamon and ginger to taste.
It's easy to make and you can eat it by the spoonful, drizzle onto porridge and yogurt, or add a dash to fizzy wine.
Carefully separate your elderberries from their stalks with a fork or your hands
Chop up a little ginger into small pieces
Put the elderberries and chopped ginger into a pan and cover them with water
Bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly
Pour the mixture through a jelly bag or muslin (fine cloth) and allow the juice to drip through. Extract as much liquid as possible
Pour the elderberry liquid into a measuring jug, and measure how much you have. Now add equal parts sugar to the liquid mixture - so if you measured 500ml of juice, add 500g of sugar, or if you have 1 litre of liquid, add 1 kilo of sugar
Add the sugar and a little ground cinnamon or cinnamon stick to the strained liquid. Simmer for five minutes and then cool and pour into sterilised bottles
When the weather turns colder, and you find yourself in front of the fire, it's the perfect time to enjoy a glass of elderberry wine.
Patience is required. Like red wine grapes they are high in tannin and so the wine needs time to mature.
2½ lb elderberries
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)
Gloves - particularly when handling the berries as they can die your skin purple!
Strip the elderberries from the stalks and wash well
Put into a fermenting bin and crush, either using gloved 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 (6g) 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