Yes, I’m off again. A hedge full of elderberries, busily being stripped by the birds, but this year I’m having my share too. Elderberries, like Rowan, come with their own element of risk. This time – cyanide poisoning. Well, I like to live on the edge, but this time I’m taking some precautions. The risk of alkaloid poisoning can be significantly reduced by ensuring that all berries are ‘de-stemmed’ by using the tines of a fork, only fully ripe berries are used, and that the fruit is cooked through before use. The cooking is the bit that makes the real difference – people make elderberry wine and jellies all the time without adverse affects, but the recipes that they follow will involve a degree of cooking. Now I’m obviously not interested in cooking the fruit down to a pulp or steeping it in boiling water, so I took the option of microwaving the berried for a couple of minutes. This leaves them more or less intact but gets the juice running and heats it through well, hopefully minimizing the affect of any rogue nasties. I should add that the body can handle small doses of plant cyanides with no ill effects, and many plants contain potential lethal alkaloids so you could consider this overkill (no pun intended…). As long as you are wary of the parts of the plant where the poisons are contained (leaves, stems, seeds, bark), you should be OK. Just remember that you’re only interested in the juice so make sure you strain the fruit off when the maceration is complete.
- 500g ripe Elderberries
- 100g Sugar
- 70cl Gin, 43° ABV
- Strip 500g of ripe elderberries from their stalks using a fork. Pick over and remove all unripe fruit and remove as many stalks as possible
- Place the berries in a microwavable bowl or jug and heat on full power for a couple of minutes, stirring occassionally. The berries should have split, be losing juice and very hot, but not a pile of mush
- In a sterilised Kilner Jar, add the berries and sugar
- Pour over the gin. Seal the jar and shake well
- Over the next 2-3 days, shake periodically until the sugar has dissolved, then store the jar in a dark cupboard for 1 month only
- Strain the mixture through a muslin and check the sweetness – add extra sugar if required. DISCARD THE BERRIES!
- Store for another month or more before bottling & drinking
Again, another experiment. The mixture is macerating with a default amount of sugar, which will need to be adjusted. I’m only leaving the fruit in for a month – the heating process will speed up the juice extraction into the liquor, and I’d like to get rid of the seeds asap.
- Benefits of Elderberry Juice (healthlifestyleforever.com)