The elderberry is an heirloom plant that grows wild in many parts of the country. It is grown commercially for use in foods and pharmaceuticals and serves as a decorative plant in the lawns of many American homesteads. The berries ripen in late summer and are ready for harvest when the clusters of deep blue berries develop a whitish surface coating.
Snip the clusters of elderberries just below the fruit. The flowers can also be harvested and saved separately if desired.
Place the harvested berries in a bucket, and transfer to a plastic bag when the bucket gets full. The juice can permanently stain clothing if handled carelessly.
Carefully separate the berries from the stems. This can be a time-consuming process.
Cook the berries in a pan with water, using low heat. Use about 1/4 pint of water and the juice of one lemon for each pound of berries. Add sugar to taste. When the juices begin flowing, simmer about 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth. This process is made easier if the cooked mixture is allowed to drain overnight.
The resulting mixture can now be used as the basis for making jams and jellies, elderberry wine or, when mixed with whole berries, for pie fillings and other uses. The berries are high in antioxidants.