In the past few days, each time I walked down to the garden, the sight of the elderberry bushes bending under the weight of the dark, shiny fruit has jumped at me. Elderberries are usually one of the latest berries to ripen but this year everything is a few weeks early. I hope the elderberries are as ripe as they look because I want them now! I have a cold and elderberries are packed with vitamin C.
Elderberries are rarely grown in the US (despite American elderberries being native shrubs) and hard to find, that’s why I planted several bushes, mainly to satisfy my cravings for my grandmother’s elderberry soup (the recipe can be found in my cookbook Spoonfuls of Germany).
If I could do it all over again, I would plant the elderberries in a different location, not on the wind-battered hillside where the soil gets extremely dry. Elderberries prefer moist soil and thrive near a brook or a pond. At this point the bushes are too big to move so in dry weather they need a good soaking every now and then.
Extracting the juice from the elderberries was cumbersome until I bought a steam juicer last year. It is the #1 equipment I would recommend to everyone who processes larger amounts of berries of all types, not only elderberries. I am so happy with my acquisition, and have shown the steam juicer to so many visitors, that my husband starts rolling his eyes when I head to the pantry to make yet another demonstration.
I can the elderberry juice with sugar (¼ cup sugar for 4 cups juice) in 1-quart canning jars and process them 20 minutes in a hot water bath.