Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wildcrafting- Elderberry Wine

As part of our homeschool, my children and I take nature walks, pick up samples along the way and tote them home.  Once back inside our snug little shouse, we research the samples, draw pictures in our nature journals and record all of the new information we learned with vast diagrams and essays.  This is a favorite class in our school - blending a pleasant afternoon stroll with the exploration of God's creation.  It is also the perfect way to teach our children the significance of education - how reading, writing and even drawing helps us to know about the world around us.

On one of our excursions, we plucked a number of humble Elderberries from their bush.  The research we conducted on Elderberries was fascinating!  It seems as though Elderberry is a scientifically valid remedy for both Influenza A and Influenza B, affecting a complete cure within 2 to 3 days.  Elderberry is also high in Potassium, rendering it a very effective, locally obtained ingredient in Oral Rehydration Solution, which is used to treat Cholera and other diarrhea producing illnesses.

As I sat contemplating the numerous health benefits of the Elderberry, I struck upon an idea that generations before me knew instinctively.  Why not Elderberry wine?  Think about it - the main ingredient in most flu and cough medicines on the market is alcohol.  Why not combine the health benefits of Elderberry with the sleep inducing attributes of a glass of wine?  Now, to be sure, we are not drinkers.  Truth be told, I hate the taste of wine.  However, if we can't get cough medication, or a flu remedy or a sleep aid, wouldn't it make sense to have something on hand to help care for your family when they have been laid low?  Particularly something that would be more effective than the store bought stuff anyway?

And so, we made Elderberry wine.  I sought a recipe that would use only what we had on hand - nothing exotic or fancy.  I ended up with an old recipe that came from the Scottish countryside.  It uses nothing more than berries, sugar, lemon juice, raisins and yeast - all things that are easily stored.  Of course, it will take many months for the wine to ferment and then age, so we will have no idea how it tastes for some time, but I will keep you posted.

Elderberry Wine                                        What I used
3 lb. elderberries (remove stalks)                11 lbs berries
3 lb. sugar                                                   22 cups sugar
1 lemon                                                       3/4 cup lemon juice
1 lb raisins (could use sultanas)                  3 1/4 lbs raisins
1/2 ounce of yeast                                       1 pkg. vintners yeast (Bordeaux)
1 gallon water                                           3 1/4 gallons water

To remove the berries from the stalks, use a fork.

Put berries in a sanitized bucket and pour on gallon of boiling water.  Mash the berries against the side of the bucket, then put in the raisins.  Cover and leave for 3 or 4 days.  Strain and tip the liquid back into the bucket; add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Squeeze the lemon and add all the juice.  Sprinkle on the yeast.  Cover for 3 days, strain again and pour wine into demijohn.  Fix airlock and leave until bubbling completely stops (about 5 months).  Strain and bottle off.  The wine could be ready to drink in about 4 months (if too young leave it for much longer).  Has a lovely red color.

Using a fork to strip the berries
Pouring boiling water over the berries
Mashing the Elderberries
Adding the raisins
Straining the wine through cheesecloth (and a strainer)
The spent berries and raisins
Bubbling away
Pouring the strained wine into the demijohn
We mixed our wine in two 4 gallon buckets that we had sterilized.  We did buy a demijohn (also known as a carboy) at our local wine shop, along with an airlock.  They were both relatively inexpensive ($25 and $1.50 respectively) and can be used virtually forever.  Also, we bought vintners yeast, however, it is possible to use regular baking yeast, although the flavor will be different that what you would expect from wine.

We are anxiously awaiting our finished wine.  It is actively bubbling along, on our counter.  There is nothing like a science experiment in your kitchen.

I can't help but think that the more we can do for ourselves, the better off we will be.  Knowing your local plant life could be the difference between life and death.

Our in-kitchen science experiment


  1. That's a great idea! Just wondering though, if you couldn't get your hand on yeast, is there any way to substitute it? Or even make your own?

  2. So many of the old fiction books and stories mention elderberry wine. Do I remember Anne of Green Gables doing so?

    Long before we knew about influenza A and B, the Lord was providing for our healing, and the health of our ancestors, as well!

  3. The Old Testament had many such things that were given to the Jews for the express purpose protecting their Health.

  4. Yeast grows in the wild on dates, grapes adn many fruits, mashing the grapes exposes the wild yeast to the sugars in the juice. you cannot be sure of the quality of the yeast until the wine is ready.

  5. your making elderberry wine brings back a memory from my childhood...mama decided to make use of some extra blackberries by making blackberry wine (for medicinal purposes of course)..things were going well until one day we heard some loud explosions from the closet in the back room of the house...yep, what a mess! it is amazing how far and how high that stuff can blow! she chalked it up as a learning experience and set about making a new batch the next year and finally could claim success.

  6. I wonder what natural cure type of stuff exist down here in Texas. I know we got chili and Jalepeno's. I know people who eat Jelepeno peppers everyday and they say they never get sick?

    When I feel Im getting a cold, I seek out the hottest (spicy) foods I can find and I eat and start to sweat out the virus. I dont know if this is a cure but it helps anyway.

  7. Wow, another great recipe using a main ingredient from the wild.

    The strained stuff could be used in compost, I presume. So nothing goes to waste.

    It's going to be hard to wait 4 months or so, but I'm sure the time will be here before we know it. Times flies when prepping for TEOTWAWKI.

    NoCal Gal

  8. Thank you for this post!

    I find blog articles like this extremely fascinating. Plus, I'm a bit jealous. I wish I was in a more rural setting...

  9. mix it with extract of wild black cherry bark for a great cough remedy.

  10. My seriously tea totaling Mormon great grandmother never went a day with some of her dandelion "tonic". Noboday ever had the nerve or gumption to tell her it was alcoholic! {;>)

  11. A North Idaho MotherNovember 18, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    How do you tell if elderberries are ripe? I picked a bunch earlier this year, but they were still bluish, so I didnt think they were ripe. But, yours in the photo are bluish too. (I'm in ID near CDA). Do tell! I heard if they arent ripe they can cause extreme GI distress because they contain chemicals in the same family as arsenic, so they should never be eaten raw.

  12. A North Idaho Mother, cut & paste this link for some info about elderberries.

    As with any new food/drink you try, start out with a small amount. This simple act will prevent or lessen many problems.

    NoCal Gal

  13. The recipe you posted listed a 1 to 1 ratio of berries to sugar, but you say you used a 1 to 2 ratio. I'm curious why you did that?

  14. Anonymous;
    I still used the 1 to 1 ratio. I just measured the sugar in cups versus pounds. 22 cups of berries is equivalent to 11 pounds. Sorry for the confusion.

  15. Have you considered dehydrating and selling some of the elderberries online for another source of income?I for one would be interested in buying some.

  16. How much water did you use?

  17. Anonymous;
    I can't believe I left out the amount of water! I just fixed the post. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  18. I'm pretty sure my mom made elderberry wine when I was little. I'll have to ask her how it turned out. Thanks for the informational post! :)

  19. I was able to try drinking elderberry wine. It's a good herbal product to cure cough, colds and other respiratory illnesses. I would love to make my own elderberry wine as well. Many people consider elderberries as one of the most effective flu remedies.

  20. Several years ago CVS drug store had a sale on a product called Sambucol. Then they offered a coupon and the manufacturer provided a rebate. The holy trifeca of savings occurred. So we stocked up on the stuff. Knowing what I now know, I would have bought it without all the "deals" It has been a tremendous relief when sickness hits!

  21. Hi Enola, I love that you include practical skills into your homeschool routine! My children, 6 and 5, are currently enrolled in Virtual School, but I have just finished filling out the paperwork to enroll them in actual homeschool, and was wondering if you use any specific curriculum, or if you have just come up with the materials yourself? From everything that I have seen in your blog, you are doing it so RIGHT, and I only hope that I can, as well. We decided to homeschool after my daughter had a VERY bad year in public school last year, including some very explicit exposure that I WILL NOT allow to happen to my children again, ESPECIALLY in kindergarten. I was homeschooled, but it was more for convenience for my mother than it was for my education, and I want that to be the top priority in my children's routine, not because it's easy. I also have a baby on the way, so I would like to start a little earlier with her than I did with the other two, although they were both above par in preschool. Any personal recommendations? Thanks! And I love your blog- I learn so much by reading it! Your family is truly wonderful, and blessed!