Black elderberries begin to ripen in mid to late July around the US. Folks who live in the northern states might not see the first ripe elderberries until sometime in August. The black elderberries on any given bush rarely ripen all at once; its not unusual to see a ripe cluster next to a cluster full of tiny, hard green berries on the same bush. That’s good news for growers and wild harvesters alike. Even if the birds beat you to the first ripened cluster of black elderberries there are more ripe elderberries to follow! All berries on a single bush will typically ripen over a period of 2-4 weeks, so when you see that first dark purple cluster of berries it’s time to visit that bush each day to guarantee a harvest. For help on identifying black elderberry bushes and harvesting and cleaning ripe black elderberries please see my blog post entitled When Are Elderberries Ripe? Properly cleaning black elderberries is essential to creating a great tasting black elderberry syrup. I have found that its best to set aside a day for the whole process, especially if you want to make black elderberry syrup from fresh black elderberries. The following recipe yields one cup of homemade black elderberry syrup. Feel free to double or triple quantities of each ingredient in the recipe to make more, as the ratios hold true regardless of the quantity of black elderberry syrup you wish to make.
- 3 cups cleaned and destemmed black elderberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoon raw unfiltered honey
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Optional flavorings: 1/8 to ¼ tsp grated fresh ginger, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, pinch of cloves, dash of vanilla extract.
- Place 3 cups ripe, clean and destemmed black elderberries in a medium saucepan, cover with one cup of water and place on low heat on the stove.
- Cover the pan and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
- Periodically check the color and the taste of the liquid surrounding the berries. You want to achieve a deep purple color and a strong berry taste. CAUTION: Don’t simmer the berries too long! Doing so will create a bitter taste.
- Strain the berries and liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Use the back of wooden or stainless-steel spoon to mash the berries against the side of the sieve to extract any remaining juice.
- Immediately add the honey and lemon juice and any of the optional flavorings, stir to combine.
- Feel free to add more honey if you prefer a sweeter taste.
- Ladle the black elderberry syrup into sterilized canning jars and seal tightly.
- To preserve your homemade elderberry syrup, place each sealed canning jar into a large canning pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
- Allow the jars to boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars using canning tongs from the hot water bath and place on a rack or towel to fully cool and complete the sealing process.
This recipe yields one cup of homemade Black Elderberry Syrup. While your homemade Black Elderberry Syrup is cooling you should hear the familiar “ting” of the caps being drawn down by the vacuum created during the canning process. Once the jars are fully cooled, check each lid to be sure that it is sucked down tight. If you find any that are questionable, place them immediately in the fridge or re-can them. Properly canned homemade black elderberry syrup will store in your pantry for quite some time, at least a year. Once opened, store your homemade black elderberry syrup in the fridge.