Out of all the berries that you can forage in the UK, elderberries don’t seem to be high up on the list of peoples favourites. This liqueur recipe utilises these underused berries and creates a drink that is rich and complex and perfect for mixing.
Elderflowers get a lot of attention. Elderflower cordials and champagnes but I’m not so keen on the perfumed aroma of these drinks. I much prefer the berries in terms of flavour.
Elderberries are so easy to collect so long as you can beat the birds to the bushes before they all disappear. The berries grow in large clusters which can be easily snipped off the bush. Collecting a dozen heads won’t take more than 10 minutes and you’ll have enough to make 500ml of elderberry Liqueur.
When picking your fruit you are need to make sure they are ripe, if any berries are still green or only burgundy coloured then they will be really bitter and not good for making drinks with. You want plump, really dark berries and the stems they are on will be reddish-purple. Elderberries are in season between July and October so it’s around this time you want to check whether any of the bushes around you have ripe berries.
I collected my elderberries last summer and put them in the freezer, it’s only now that I have finally gotten around to using them. This is what is so great about making drinks like liqueurs, you can store your ingredients for a period of time and then when you are ready, begin crafting your recipe. Freezing breaks down the berries and helps to release the juices, colour and sugar and it’s these components we want to infuse into the base alcohol.
It is of course important that you know exactly what you are picking, if you are in any doubt over whether you are picking elderberries of some other berry then do not pick them. You need to be 100% sure you have correctly identified the elderberries as some other berries can be toxic.
Preparing The Elderberries
Once you have collected the elderberries you need to remove the stalks and stems so that you have just the small berries.
Take a fork and use it to kind of comb the berries away from the stems. I have read that the stems are inedible and you should remove them. In any case we only want the flavour from the berries and not the green plant material. Using a fork to remove the berries does the job perfectly.
Once you have removed the stems, take your elderberries and wash them, fill a bowl of water and put the elderberries in. The debris and dried flowers will float to the top and can easily be removed and the elderberries that sunk to the bottom will all be good. Strain and let the berries dry. You can then freeze the berries in bags ready to use whenever you want.
Elderberry Liqueur Recipe
As I mentioned previously, I like to freeze the elderberries as it breaks down the cell membranes releasing the juices. When you are ready to make the liqueur remove the fruit from the freezer and allow to thaw.
12 heads of Elderberries or around 250ml in Volume
250ml Vodka or Brandy
- Take a clean jar with a lid and add the thawed elderberries and their juices. To the jar add the alcohol, either vodka or brandy is a good choice. The elderberries should be completely covered by the alcohol.
- Let the fruit sit for around a week. The alcohol will have turned completely purple within a few days.
- After a week prepare a sugar syrup by boiling the water and sugar for a few minutes. After boiling, let the sugar syrup cool down to room temperature.
- Whilst the syrup is cooling strain the elderberry and alcohol infusion. I strained straight into a clean jug. The elderberries can now be put aside.
- Pour the cooled sugar syrup into the elderberry infusion, which can now be poured straight into a clean bottle and sealed.
The elderberry liqueur is now ready and can be used straight away. It’ll keep for a couple of months and once you open it I like to keep it in the fridge.