Spotlight on Elderberry Plants – Making Elderberry Wine and Jam


When I was a child, my dad was very interested in searching for, harvesting, and cooking things that grew wildly. We would gather acorns and my dad would boil them, grind them into flour, and turn them into bread. We made a lemonade substitute out of wild sumac berries, and I think that my dad gathered milkweed and my mother and/or dad cooked it like asparagus. Some of our foraging ventures have become foggy, but I distinctly remember our collecting the flowers of wild elderberries. My mother and/or my dad dipped the flowers in batter, fried them, and sprinkled powder sugar on them.

Elderflower fritters 1

Image Credit: Spoonfuls of Germany Site, where I read that the growing of elderberry bushes is coming back in Germany. My dad’s mother was German. Perhaps that is where his interest began in making elderberry fritters. Here is the Spoonfuls Recipe:

Elderflower Fritters (Hollerküchle)

When foraging elderflowers, please make sure you have the right kind – American elderberries is what you want.  For identification, see the post on my gardening blog last year. Also note that the flower stems are poisonous and should not be eaten, but they can be safely left on during frying for convenience.

12 large elderflower heads, with stems at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) long

½ cup (70 g) all-purpose flour

1 large egg, separated

½ cup (120 ml) milk (I used 2%)

2 teaspoons sugar

Pinch of salt

Oil for frying (I used corn oil)

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Shake the elderflowers to remove any insects. Immerse the flowers in a large bowl filled with cold water. Swish around and place in a colander to drain.

2. Whisk the flour with the egg yolk, milk and sugar to a smooth consistency. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until it stands in stiff peaks. Fold the egg white into the batter. It should be a thick liquid. If too stiff, add a bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time.

3. Pour oil about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high in a small heavy pot and heat it to 370 degrees F (190 degrees C), or until the oil is hot enough to sizzle a breadcrumb.

4. Dip one flowerhead at a time  into the batter. Move it around to coat evenly, then shake it gently to remove excess batter. Holding it by the stem, or with tongs, immerse it into the hot oil flower side down, and fry until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, and proceed the same way with the rest of the flowers.

5. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm. Do not eat the flower stems.

Makes 6 servings”Elderflowers are so full of flavor that only a few are needed to make

In his book The Cottage Garden, Christopher Lloyd talks about making both elderflower wine and elderberry wine.

Recipe for Elderflower Wine

“Elderflowers are so full of flavor that only a few are needed to make this wine.”

2.5 c. elderflowers
1 gallon boiling water
7 cups sugar
2 T. white wine vinegar
1.5 c. chopped raisins (optional)
2 lemons – juiced
about 1 teaspoon yeast

“Place the measured elderflowers in a large bowl or pot and pour the boiling water over. Add the sugar, white wine vinegar and the juice from the lemons. If you like, add the chopped raisins. Allow the liquid to cool to about 70º and then add the yeast. Closely cover and leave the liquid to ferment in a warm place for about five days. Strain and place in a jar with an air lock. When the liquid has stopped fermenting and is clear it can be decanted and bottled” Lloyd, Christopher. The Cottage Garden, p. 177.

In a 1974  issue of Mother Earth News, the following is said about making Elderflower Wine:

How to Make Elderflower Wine

Elder flowers (at least one quart)
1 gallon boiling water per quart of flowers
2 to 2 1/2 pounds of sugar per gallon of liquid
2 lemons or limes per gallon, juiced, per gallon
1 packet of dry wine yeast per 5 gallons of liquid (see “Wine Making Tips” below for more information about wine yeast)

Snip a quart of flowers from the stems, pour a gallon of boiling water over them and let the tea steep three or four days with the blossoms pressed down under the liquid (they turn brown and spoil the color of the drink if they’re exposed to air). Sometimes we soak orange peel at the same time, but it makes the infusion harder to clear.

Strain off the fluid and heat some of it to dissolve 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of sugar per gallon. If you have a hydrometer, aim at an 11 percent alcohol content — no more — for the finished product. When the solution cools, add the juice of 2 lemons or limes per gallon along with yeast. (You can use bread yeast — one package to five gallons — but the same amount of dry wine yeast will give you an infinitely better drink.) Then let the mixture work like any other such beverage . . . in a container that can be stopped with an air lock to let carbon dioxide out and keep air, bacteria and whatnot from getting in. Large batches, incidentally, are less likely to go bad than small lots. See the full article Here

Wine Making Tips

Wine yeast can get a better jump on wild strains if you start it working about 48 hours before you want it. Take 1/2 cup water, add 1/2 cup orange juice (fresh) or juice from the berries and boil the liquid with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Let the syrup cool to lukewarm and add one package of wine yeast. Finally, put the mixture into a quart soda bottle and stop the mouth with cotton.

A good starter will be enough for about 10 gallons of wine . . . or you can stretch it by using half (for 5 gallons), then adding water/juice/sugar to the remainder in the original proportions and letting the stuff go to work again. The yeast mixture can be kept in the refrigerator from two to three weeks if you don’t want to use it right away, but allow it time to warm up and become active before you add it to your future wine. Starter, in other words, can be made to work more or less like sourdough to cut your initial investment in yeast. One package, however, shouldn’t be stretched for more than about five batches of wine.

Honey can be substituted for sugar in almost any wine formula. The drink will never clear, though, unless you use the following trick: Mix the honey with the water which is called for in the recipe and boil the whole business at least 30 minutes, skimming well. By the way, don’t cook the fruit juice itself in this step or you’ll end up with a cloudy beverage.

Honey is deficient in some of the acids or whatever that wine needs, so adjust the acidity of your blend accordingly. (We use lime juice for this purpose, but lemon would work as well.) Of course, honey plus lime juice makes a perfectly elegant drink all by itself. To produce 5 gallons of mead you need about 13 pounds of honey, about 24 limes and a packet of mead yeast.

Final note: Recycle used wine bottles, and shell out for a corker and new corks. It’s dumb to put so much time into making a good drink, only to serve it up in tacky old soda bottles . . . and it’ll most likely be vinegary, too, since I’ve yet to meet with a screw cap that can deal — as a wine cork can — with the delicate problem of exposure to air. There’s a better way to reuse soft drink containers: cut them off to make glasses from which to drink your homemade wine. See the full article in Mother Earth News Here

Elderberry Wine Recipe

Elder berries (at least 2 gallons)
1 gallon of boiling water per 2 gallons of berries
3 1/2 to 4 pounds of sugar per gallon of boiled-down liquid
1 packet of dry wine yeast per 5 gallons of liquid (see “Wine Making Tips” below for more information about wine yeast)

For elderberry wine, pick nice plump berries about two days ahead of the birds (second or third week of August here in New York State) and strip them from the stems. You can use a fork and save your fingers, but I find my hands are faster. Then crunch up the fruit as if you were kneading dough. You’ll need paint thinner later on to remove the gummy sap from your skin!

Pour boiling water over the purple mess (1 gallon for every 2 gallons of fruit) and let the mixture steep for about a week, punching down the berries occasionally. Keep the crock covered with a towel to protect the working “must” from dust and the odd yeast floating around in the air. See the full article Here

In his book The Cottage Garden, Christopher Lloyd adds the following about making Elderberry Wine:

“Elderberry wine can be strong in its own right, bkut co;untry people sometimes make it even stronger by adding a wine glass of brandy to each gallon wine.” p. 177




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s