On Sunday we drove a little distance to engage in what has become a yearly tradition–picking elderberries. The shrubs are generally 20′ tall or more, and they like to grow over an embankment, so picking is often a bit of an adventure. Thanks to the Dearliest, we have an advantage in the form of an extendable tree trimmer, and especially when used from the bed of his F-350 (like we did 2 years ago), reach isn’t as much of an issue as it could be.
Another advantage this year is three helpers! Arc did try, but most of his berries ended up in this mouth and not the bowl. Sadly, he ended up greatly regretting that later, although he hasn’t seemed to have learned the lesson because I’m still chasing him out of the few clusters that are left.
I have been processing the elderberries in batches, and I hope to have everything canned and cleaned by tomorrow. It seems elderberry syrup is really popular on the internet, but I prefer to make straight juice. Nothing added but water.
1) Fill a pot half full with elderberries that have been rinsed (lightly mashed or not, doesn’t seem to make much difference near as I can tell).
2) Add water to the berries to within an inch or two of the top of the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
3) Turn off the heat and let it sit until cool enough to handle (don’t tell anyone, but I often just let it sit overnight if I do the first boiling in the evening when it’s not, you know, 100 degrees out).
4) Using a colander lined with cheesecloth or some other fine mesh, strain juice into a second pot. Wrap the berries in the cheesecloth and twist, squeeze, and squish the life out of them.
5) When you’ve gotten all the juice out that you can, discard what’s left of the berries. Bring the juice to a boil a second time (this is also the time to sterilize/ prepare your canning jars, lids, and rings). Keep juice at a simmer until ready to can.
6) Using a funnel and ladle, fill your hot jars with the hot juice, screw on the lids, and let them rest in a place free of drafts until cool. Label, store, enjoy!
* No, you do not need to use the water bath canning method. Because the juice is boiling hot, it self-seals. I have never had any trouble doing it this way!
* We like to use elderberry juice primarily as a flu deterent, but there are other benefits to it as well.