My husband grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, since his dad was an avid hunter and fisherman. He also spent two summers as a teen working as a scout camp counselor in Wyoming, where he learned about using wild plants that covered the mountainside, so there is a bit of forager in him. Recently we were driving home from our favorite picnic area when he spotted a huge elderberry bush loaded with ripe fruit. We had a cloth shopping bag in the back of the car, so he took it, climbed the hillside, and came back 15 minutes later with 10-12 lbs. of berries. This is his recipe for elderberry syrup. I cannot claim it, but it is very good, and if you have access to the berries you may find it useful. Cooked elderberries taste like a cross between black grapes and blueberries. The flavor has a depth and richness that you rarely find in other fruit. You can use the syrup for breakfast foods such as pancakes and French toast, but you can also use it to make drinks, flavor ice cream, sorbets, and custards. When working with elderberries remember that the stems are mildly toxic so you must remove them completely. My husband has found that the easiest way to do this is to wash, dry, and freeze the berries first, then remove the berries from the stems while still frozen. Use an immersion blender to break up the thawed berries, then heat them to extract juice. Use equal amounts of sugar to juice.
15 c. elderberries (from 10-12 lbs. berries)
5 c. elderberry juice extracted from the berries
5 c. sugar
Begin by washing the berries, then either shake off the excess water or let them dry for a few hours. Freeze them solid and then strip off the berries while still frozen. Place thawed berries in an 8-quart stock pot and immersion blend until berries have broken down. Heat the berries to the boiling point without any extra liquid. Remove from heat and strain berries to extract juice. You should have 5 cups of juice. While the berries are being strained, fill a water bath canning steamer with water and bring to the boil. Fill a small pan with water and place lids in it and boil to sterilize. Return juice to the stockpot. Add sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour juice into sterilized jars. Wipe the rim and screw on sterilized lids. Water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 7-8 (half pint) jars.