It’s been a while since I’ve posted about a wild edible, so here you go! Elderberries can be used in jams & jellies, desserts, as well as for making juice and syrup for health benefits. Elderberries are high in antioxidants and can help your body fight a cold by shortening the duration and lessening the severity of it. The easiest way to give this benefit to my family is by making elderberry juice. When we feel the first signs of a cold (scratchy throat, sneezing, etc.), we drink 2-3 ounces of the elderberry juice a couple times per day until the cold is gone. Most of the time, the cold will only last a couple of days, and sometimes it’s knocked out before it even takes hold.
The elderberries that we pick here in Michigan are very small and dark purple. I think they’re sometimes called “black elderberries.” I’ve seen pictures and videos of elderberries found in other parts of the U.S. and they are more blue in color, similar to blueberries but smaller. Either way, elderberry blossoms and berries grow in an umbrella shape that resembles Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. Look for some pictures online and get a good field guide just to be sure you are picking edible berries. Some people see poke weed or water hemlock and think they’re elderberries. PLEASE make sure you know what you are picking! In Michigan, elderberry bushes blossom in May, usually around Memorial Day. This is a good time to make note of where the bushes are because they are more difficult to spot later in the season. The berries ripen in September, so keep an eye out and remember where you saw those blossoms!
18 cups water
6-7 cups fresh elderberries
6 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
cinnamon to taste (ground or sticks)
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the berries and stem pieces with a fine strainer. If you want more of the juice and pulp from the berries to go into your juice, use a Kitchenaid strainer or a juicer. This will separate the seeds and stems from the berry pulp.
Reheat the juice to a simmer and ladle the hot juice into pint jars, leaving 1/8 inch head space. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
Try to keep as many stems as possible out of your juice because they contain a toxin that should not be ingested in large quantities.
Shake the juice before pouring and refrigerate after opening.
Elderberry juice tastes fantastic when it’s hot, and could even be taken with honey to clear a scratchy throat. It’s also good added to tea!