I am a great believer in making the most of what is available for free in our hedgerows and fields. And at this time of year nature has an incredible abundance - it isn't known as harvest time for nothing.
Elderberries seem to be almost finishing where I live, so I am picking like mad to get as many as I can before they dry and drop from the branches.
I mostly make elderberry & clove cordial with them (see menu on the right under Elderberries or Cordials), but I also make a gallon or so of elderberry wine. I personally like a slightly sweeter elderberry wine than usual and the following is the recipe I use.
(Please remember all measurements are imperial as used in Britain and Ireland, as opposed to the US lbs etc. I will be adding a universal conversion chart to the blog soon.)
Elderberry Wine (Sweet)
3 lbs (1.5 kg) fresh Elderberries
3.5 lbs (1.7 kg) white Sugar
2 Lemons (organic as they do not have wax coatings on the skin and you don't want that in your wine!). Alternatively you can use 1 teaspoon of Citric Acid which is the same thing
1 gallon (4.5 litres) Water
Wine Yeast & Nutrient
1. Take the berries off of the stalks. This is fairly easy using a fork. Then weigh them to ensure that you have 3 lbs.
2. Crush the berries in a bowl.
3. Pour over the boiling water, stir, and then let it cool to about 21C (70F).
4. When at 21C put the crushed berries, the sliced lemons (or the citric acid), the yeast and yeast nutrient into a large food grade plastic bucket. I use one sachet of wine yeast for a gallon as I usually only make a gallon of a kind at a time. I believe 1 sachet of wine yeast is enough for up to 5 gallons though. Cover the bucket.
5. Leave this for 3 days, stirring it once a day then recovering the bucket.
6. After 3 days strain the mixture through a fine sieve (or muslin) onto the sugar. Mix the sugar into the liquid.
7. Put the liquid into a glass demijohn (preferably a dark one to preserve the colour). Do not fill the demijohn to the top as it will need room to ferment, instead put the excess liquid into sterilised wine bottles and put plenty of cotton wool (acts as an airlock) in the bottle necks. You will need this extra to top up the demijohn once fermentation stops and you 'rack off' the liquid from the remaining sediment.
8. Fit an airlock to the demijohn (and don't forget the bit of water in it).
9. Leave the demijohn and the bottles until fermentation is complete. Remember to label them with the flavour and the date ! Fermentation may take a while.
10. Once fermentation stops completely (no more bubbles rising at all), rack off the liquid from the sediment. This essentially means siphon it off into a clean, sterilised demijohn for further storage. This is where you can use the extra wine bottles with the cotton wool to top up.
11. Store the wine like this for about 6 months, and then bottle. Preferably into dark bottles to preserve the colour.
The wine can be drunk from about 9 months, but it is still very new then and will be far better if left at least a year, preferably more.
This particular recipe is adapted from one in 'First Steps in Winemaking', a book by the great C.J.J. Berry.