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How To Eat Elderberry

The elderberry is a small and mighty berry that’s often transformed into a rich and potent berry syrup for use in recipes rather than being eaten raw. Raw elderberries can be somewhat bland, bitter and seedy, but their flavor truly develops when cooked, particularly into flavorful syrups and other slow cooking methods. Many describe the distinct flavor of elderberry as a complex combination of dark purple berries that are sweet and tart like blueberries, and bitter and floral like acai.

Green, under ripened elderberries are inedible because they’re toxic. But no need to worry. The small amount of precaution you need to take, along with a little time at the stovetop is well worth it to enjoy the unique flavor that the elderberry gives to drinks, desserts and savory dishes alike.

Maybe you’ve been puttin’ up elderberry jam for as long as you can remember, or maybe elderberries are new to you. Either way, elderberries are easy to use in recipes with a little practice. FruitStand wants you to get the most of your elderberry eating experience, so here are some of the most common ways to enjoy elderberries using easy methods and simple equipment.

Processing Elderberries

When you receive elderberries, the first thing you should do is a happy dance. Immediately after that, use your fingers to gently separate the berries from their cymes, the green, intricate stemmy clusters from which elderberries grow. Ripe elderberries will be dark purple to black in color, with a smooth, shiny skin and a full, round to oblong shape. Their skin is shiny and taut, while inside are three compartments housing small seeds. Place your dark purple elderberries in a bowl completely away from any green or very lightly colored berries and plant debris, as those parts of the plants are toxic and inedible.

From there, you can either use elderberries in recipes immediately or freeze them for future use. To freeze elderberries, begin by laying a piece of wax or parchment paper on a sheet pan and then spreading the berries out evenly before placing in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, pour them into a storage bag or freezer safe container for up to three months.

Cooking Elderberries

Cooking Elderberries

Elderberry begs to be cooked so that it can fully express it’s deeply complex dark berry flavor. Here are some of the most common cooking methods to bring out elderberry’s distinct flavor:

  • Confection: The balanced bitterness of elderberry shines in jams, jellies, syrups and candy making. Use the deep purple syrups and spreads with cheese, on pancakes and waffles or to top yogurt and ice cream.
  • Roasting: Elderberry’s prominent flavor stands up well to substantial meats like beef, pork and game, and contributes to complexly flavored sauces.
  • Baking: Elderberries add oomph to berry pies, cakes, breads, and pastries.

Drinking Elderberry

Drinking Elderberry

Because elderberries transform so beautifully and easily into syrups, drinking these antioxidant packed power berries is easy. Before long you’ll be adding concentrated elderberry deliciousness to teas, tinctures, cocktails, juices and smoothies.

Here are some easy ways use elderberry in your drinks:

  • Syrup: To make a rich syrup, elderberries are placed in a heavy-bottomed pot with water, sugar and sometimes spices and cooked until the mixture is concentrated and rich and then strained. The viscous elderberry syrup can be added to just about any drink where the dark berry flavor pairs well.  
  • Smoothies: Freeze small cubes of elderberry syrup to pop into smoothies and acai bowls.
  • Cocktails Concentrated elderberry is used in strong punches and spirit-forward cocktails.

Do you feel like an elderberry eating expert now? Show us your favorite ways to use elderberry by tagging us in your culinary concoctions on Instagram @Fruitstandcom!

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