I was first introduced to elderberries by an elder at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in 2012, who fruitlessly attempted to explain what they were like: “they come in great big bunches, but they’re very small, and you just get massive amounts of berries on each bush!”. I was intrigued for sure. A year later, as I was getting to know Dot and her gardens, I found myself spending hours separating elderberries from their stems into a bucket to be used to make Elderberry Apple Jelly.
I’ve continued to grow and process elderberries to make this jelly and have been slowly learning how to make the process just a little less tedious. The best information I’ve found on processing is in an article titled, Elderberry: Botany, Horticulture, Potential by D. Charlebois et al., in Horticultural Reviews: The author explains: “Cleaning is done by dumping the berries into a container of appropriate size until it is half filled. Enough water is then poured in to cover them. The container is gently shaken, causing stems, leaves, green berries, and any insects that may have been gathered along with the berries to float to the surface of the water, while the ripe berries remain at the bottom. More water is then added, and all this unwanted material is poured out of the container. After this rinsing operation, the berries are poured out on to a screen, to form a thin layer. A fine water spray can be used to remove any sand and soil particles that may still cling to them.”
I’ve made the assumption that anyone reading this has an interest in processing elderberries because they already know how awesome they are, but in case you need more convincing, this article (see page 23) documents many many uses and benefits.