Elderberries(Sambucus spp.) are a local plant, free, and abundant around the Park City area. Even though fall has come quickly to Park City with early snows and cold temperatures, there are still berries to be picked. Just around the first frost the elderberries tend to be their sweetest having had most of the summer to mature and ripen. The berries make great jellies, syrups, liquors and tinctures.
Elderberries grow in large clusters or umbrellas on a hollow stemmed shrub usually in open sub alpine meadows and mountainsides. The whole cluster is picked at the stem or cut off with a knife and gathered in bags. ( It is important to remember that the blue and black varieties are safer to eat while the red varieties are reported to be more Toxic. The stems, bark, roots and leaves have cyanide producing glycosides and should not be eaten. Will cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting). In general I like to keep consumption down in any one sitting, usually less than a handful at any given time.
The Quickest way to de-stem the berries is to freeze the entire umbrella, then once frozen, the berries literally fall off the stems.
Step 1) De-stemmed berries are put in a large pot. Fill pot with enough water to cover berries. ( can also slice a few apples, crab apples, serviceberries or other berries and add them to the pot )(for syrup can add ginger, cinnamon, lemon peel, and cloves)
Step 2) Bring to a boil and keep at a low boil on medium high heat for 30-45 min. Can use a potato smasher to crush some of the berries.
Step 3) Strain and press the liquid through a tea cloth and strainer into a large bowl or pot. After the berries are completely drained and pressed they can be discarded. Measure and pour juice back into a pot and put back on burner.
Step 4) On medium heat bring to a boil and add sugar at a 1-1 ratio to the Measured juice volume. Continue to stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
This concentrated juice can be stored in prepared sterilized jars for use later. Mixed 3-4 parts water with 1 part concentrated juice and enjoy.
This Concentrate can be used as a syrup or further modified into a jelly by adding pectin.
Elderberry Liquor or Tincture
Dried or frozen elderberries with a large slice of ginger and some zest of lemon are put in a jar and covered with vodka and covered with a lid. I also like to put in some ripened service berries to sweeten the mixture. This mixture is stored in a dark, room temperature place for a minimum of 1 month. This is mixed occasionally and opened to let out any condensation. The longer it is stored the darker it becomes. After 1 month it is strained through a tea cloth and can be stored for years in a jar. To sweeten as a dessert liquor 1/3 cup sugar may be added to 1 quart tincture and mixed till dissolved.