We are all fond of our super foods these days, but did you know that our native elderberry is a superfood too? Elder berries are high in antioxidants and they are great at fighting away cold & flus. The elderberry is also high in Vitamin A and B
So why not try and make your own wine from our native Elder plants this summer? Native Irish hedgerows are jam packed full of sambucus aurea or elder as we commonly know it. The dark purple / black berries can be made into wine in late summer and below is a simple recipe on how to do it
First you need to identify the elder plant and pick your berries. They are easy to spot; the foliage & stems are quite distinctive. You may know the stems as they are long narrow canes that are hollow on the inside and have a rough wrinkled bark. The leaves are pinnate with 12 leaflets per leaf. But it is the flowers and berries that really make the elder stand out
The best time to pick berries from the elder is once the berries themselves have turned a deep black colour so anywhere between July and September is elderberry picking wine. Wait for a bright and sunny day to pick the berries as this is supposed to be the time when the most amount of flavour is in the fruits
- Once picked you need to remove the berries from their stems and put in a large, clean bucket. Ideally a 5 gallon plastic bucket is best. You can use a fork or comb or your hands to remove the berries, but be warned – they will stain your fingers and the stain can last for a good few days
- Mash the berries up, but try to avoid crushing the berries seeds as this can add extra bitterness to the wine. You can use a glass bottle or potato masher to mash up the berries
- Place the berries in a large saucepan, cover with water & bring to a light simmer. Next add the sugar; for every litre of elderberries add a litre of sugar!
- Once the mixture has cooled off, pour it into a food grade bucket and add 0.5 litres of water for every 1l of elderberries. To ferment you need to add wine yeast & lime juice. Cover the bucket with a heavy lid and allow fermenting for 4 to 5 days.
- Next, strain the mixture to remove the larger berry pieces using a fine sieve. At this point you could sample the wine to determine its sweetness. If the elder wine is very bitter at this point add more sugar.
- After a further 6 weeks funnel into glass bottles allow the wine to settle and finally siphon out the mixture into another glass bottle. Once full seal each bottle with a cork until ready to use