I am making Elderberry Wine! I would say "I made elderberry wine," but since it's not in bottles yet, I consider the thing still in process. But I can tell you that it is going very well. This was my first attempt at wine-making. I'll tell you how I am doing it, after scouring a number of recipes online. [Update: it turned out pretty awesome. Now we're aging it in the basement to enjoy around Christmas time, over a year later.]
It all started with a walk in the woods near our home on a beautiful afternoon in October. Just as we were about to head home, we found an elderberry grove just loaded with ripe fruit. We picked and picked, and got started on the process for using them almost as soon as we opened our front door.
1. Strip the berries off of their stems. The quickest, easiest way is to use a fork. Or, if you have an hour or two, you can freeze the stems and then just shake the berries off into your bowl.
I actually waited a few days until I got to step two, but I would recommend you get on with it sooner-- mine began to ferment and develop a yeast that I had to kill off by boiling-- luckily, I still got away with it!
2. Put them in a pot and mash them a bit-- I used an old tequila bottle.
3. Cover the berries in water, and bring them to a boil. Let them simmer for a little while (15- 30 minutes.) Add sugar equal to the original weight of the berries.
After a few days of fermentation in the bucket, this is what it looked like:
5. Strain the berries out, pouring the liquid into a sterilized demijohn. Put an airlock on it, and stick it someplace a little warm. I wrapped mine in a dish towel.
After six weeks, I tasted it. Elderberries are known to be very tannic, and so although it was quite astringent and kind of bitter, it did taste like WINE! It was not sweet at all-- the sugar had been fermented, so I added additional sugar (1/2 cup) after the following step:
6. Rack the wine. This just means to siphon it into another sterilized demijohn. This separates the wine from the yeasty sediment that is in the bottom of the first vessel-- the lees. (Pretty though, right?) Now it's time to let the wine sit in a cooler place-- I moved mine into our basement.
I did this a couple of weeks ago. I tasted the wine again yesterday, and it is less tannic, but still tastes very young, of course, and has that slight effervescence of a new wine. But it is good-- and very warming!
I don't know if you can see the difference or not, but the first glass is after one month, and the second is after two-- the wine is becoming more clear, and it has a really nice color.
In another week, I'll rack the wine into bottles, and let them age... They say you can let elderberry wine age for years, and that it's really incredible. I'm not sure I will wait that long-- some guides say it's ready to drink after six months.
The process is really pretty easy, and definitely a fun project! Elderberry wine can be made with frozen berries, and it can also include some other types of sweeter berries, so there are a lot of possibilities. As I mentioned in my post about making blackberry cider, I don't have a lot of brewing experience, and don't follow recipes exactly. Even so, this wine is turning out really nicely, so I think you should give it a shot! Here is a site with instructions for making elderberry wine.
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