The best elderberry recipes
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.
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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 the berries straight away, they can be frozen and used later.
Elderberries and ginger may have anti-viral properties, so get ready for winter and make a stash of elderberry syrup. Add cinnamon and ginger to taste.
It's easy to make and you can eat it by the spoonful, drizzle onto porridge or 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
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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 for this recipe. Like red wine grapes, elderberries are high in tannin and so the wine needs time to mature.
- 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 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
- Syphon into bottles
Credit: iStock.com / Dejan Kolar