It’s Elderberry Season!

by | Sep 17, 2023

Saera Burns is a local friend of mine, and she occasionally drops tantalizing invitations into my dm’s to join her for things like weeding sessions at her and Reed’s farm, or candle-making with tea cups and beeswax, or rituals to bring light to our long, dark, wet Pacific Northwest winters.

Her latest invitation was to join her in her kitchen for elderberry elixir-making. Even though I knew very little about elderberry, aside from its popularity as cough syrup, I said yes!

The day of our kitchen date, I loaded up my carrying basket with jars, cheesecloth, an apron, and other tools of the canning trade. Once at Saera’s, she loaded me up with gallon bags of frozen elderberries. MANY gallon bags. Surveying the somewhat intimidating volume of fruit, we talked through our plan. First, we poured the berries into 2 large pots, added water, and turned on the flame. Then, we waited. We also nibbled on grapes, monitored toddlers, and tried to carry on adult-ish conversations with Saera’s mom.

Slowly, the berries’ outer casings went from deep purple to pale brown as they released their tart juice. Our wooden spoons turned shades of purples and pinks, the children came and went, and a delicious scent filled the air. When the time came to take the pots off the stove and strain the berries, Saera and I worked as a team. She ladled the spent fruit into the sac I held over my trusty mouli, and we ooh‘d and ahh‘d as purple juice filled a third pot enlisted into our cause – because a lot of berries means a LOT of juice!

Once the fruit was strained, we returned the two big pots to the stove and simmered the liquid down by half (or so). The next day, I used some of the juice to make my first batch of elixir, complete with wild blackberry honey gathered right here on Salt Spring Island. I’ll use the rest of the juice to make an elderberry oxymel with that same honey, plus apple cider vinegar.

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If you’d like to read more about elderberries, check out this article by another local, homeopathist, herbalist, and teacher Seraphina Capranos.

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