"Elderberries are all but totally ignored on this island, despite being the most versatile and most delicious of all wild fruits. Their colour is ravishing and they can be put to many valuable uses. The season usually runs from September to mid-October, depending on local geography and weather. Best to find bushes carrying the dark berries in heads that are so heavy they hang down. Snap off the bunch where it joins the branch and gather about one supermarket carrier-bag of heads to make one litre of juice." Christopher Robbins
For more elderberry inspiration, check out this guest blog post by our foraging guru Christopher Robbins. Better yet, sign up for one of his outstanding foraging classes!
- Remove the elderberry heads from your carrier bag and place in a bowl of water for 20mins to allow joy-riding insects to float off!
- Pack elderberry heads gently into a large, lidded, casserole saucepan and add 1/2 teacup water to just cover the bottom of the pan.
- Place with lid on over a gentle heat and allow to simmer and steam. The steam ruptures the berries. After two minutes of gentle steaming, carefully turn the fruit bunches over in the pan and replace lid. After a further 10-15 mins turn again if necessary. The berries are ready when the volume of released juice rises nearly halfway up the side of the pan.
- Remove from the heat and gently press the berries/bunches down with the back of a sturdy potato masher or large wooden spoon. Place a colander over a large bowl and gently tip the juice and bunches from the pan into the colander. Allow to drain. This produces almost pure juice that is ready to use.
The elderberry juice needs more sugar to preserve it as a syrup. Do take a look at our ideas for enjoying elderberry syrup in ice cream, chutney and jam, and (needless to say) cocktails!
- 500 ml elderberry juice
- 400 gm white sugar
- Add the juice to a medium saucepan over gentle heat.
- Stir in the sugar often until it is nearly dissolved.
- Bring gently to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Pour off into sterilized bottles with airtight seals. Then label and enjoy! This syrup should store for 1-2 years.