It’s very easy to make your own elderberry juice to drink on its own or to make into a syrup for all its immune-boosting, health-promoting properties.
I have always loved elderberries!
When I was a kid, I remember gathering elderberries with my grandparents in the fall.
These tiny, black berries are known for their health-promoting and immune-boosting properties.
Let me show you how easy it is to make your own elderberry juice at home!
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Elderberries are native shrubs that grow in North America and Europe. People have traditionally been using both the flowers and the berries in many recipes. Elderflowers and berries are valued to treat the common cold, flu, constipation, hay fever, and sinus infections (source).
Aside from their health benefits, I just love their taste. It’s very fruity but has a distinctive tartness to it. I suspect that I also love the taste because it brings back childhood memories.
How to find Elderberries
It’s easiest to spot the plants in the spring when they’re full of flowers. If you’re anything like my, you have a map where you mark their locations. Or you simply remember! You may be surprised that people guard elderberry bush locations like a big secret, though.
In the fall, you may still be able to spot them with their black berries.
They tend to grow in moist soil but in sunny spots. Once you find a few, you’ll notice a pattern to where they like to grow. I also encourage you to drive around your area – slowly – and look for them.
Of course, you can plant them in your garden. I have successfully planted two pieces of stem by simply sticking them into the soil in the fall. That wasn’t a very sophisticated method but it worked.
What you need for making Elderberry Juice
Over the years, I have found that a steam juicer works best. There are various models out there. Decades ago, I used a hand-me-down aluminum one that I don’t recommend anymore. Stainless steel is a much better option.
They all work by the same principle: you have a bottom pan that you fill with water. On top is the next pan that collects the juice. It has a cone in the middle with a hole. The top part is a pan that looks like a huge colander. The boiling water from the bottom pan rises up into the berries. That makes them release their juice into the middle pan. This middle pan has a silicone tube with a clamp attached that allows you to fill the juice into jars.
I recommend this model. My husband is a researcher so when I need something I set him to the task. He chose the Norpro Steam Juicer for me. Since I knew that I would be using it a lot (sometimes a few times in one season), I wanted a model that would last me many year.s You may find some cheaper models. Do your own research into what fits your needs and budget the best.
To collect and store your juice you will need some glass bottles. I often save bottles throughout the year but you could also use mason jars. Make sure that all your bottles/jars and caps/lids have been sterilized.
How to Extract the Elderberry Juice
Using this steam juicer, you simply fill the bottom pan with water. You don’t want to fill it all the way. However, if you’re steaming for a while you need to check the water level periodically. I have heard that people put glass marbles in the bottom pan. As the water is boiling, the marbles make a sound that changes when all the water has evaporated. I have never done this and have not had any problems. But – I do check the water!
Put your elderberries into the top portion of the steam juicer. Only the berries and flowers of the elder plant are edible. There is some toxicity in the whole plant, especially when consumed raw. However, we have never had any problems putting everything in there, elderberries and stems and all. I just need it quicker and simpler. Some people say that the berries have such low toxicity that you would have to eat A LOT of them before you would feel anything. If you prefer you could separate the berries from the stems with a fork.
Set the steam juicer on your stove and turn it to medium-hot. It may take a while for the water to come to a boil. You don’t need a roaring boil but you do need steam.
Begin checking after about 10 minutes or so for juice that may have dripped into the middle portion. You might also notice some juice collecting in the tube. As soon as there is enough juice, simply hold the tube over the jar or bottle, open the clamp, and let the black-purple goodness flow in there until full. Immediately, close it with the lid or seal.
You will know that the bottle or jar is sealed if you hear the plopping sound. Press on it with your fingers – it should not give. If for any reason you have not reached a proper seal, you can still store your juice in the refrigerator and consume it within about a week.
Otherwise, store your elderberry juice for later.
How to enjoy Elderberry Juice
As you may have noticed, we prefer to not add any sweetener to the juice. We like to do that when we actually consume it.
Elderberry juice has a gentle warming effect on the body. Therefore, we love drinking it in the cooler seasons. Or when someone feels like they have a cold coming on.
We heat it up and add a bit of water to it. You can sweeten it with sugar or stevia (my preferred method). It’s also great with some apple juice, especially if you’re looking to balance out the tartness of the elderberries.
Even though I have not done this, you could turn this juice into an elderberry syrup or tincture. Or elderberry jelly 🙂