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Tasty Healthy Fun 

Elderberry is not just for health. Elderflowers and berries are tasty fun! Their distinctive flavors and colors have been used for hundreds of years in Europe to make sauces, teas, cordials and wines. You can add elderberry juice to just about any beverage where you want a burst of dark blue berry flavor without the need to add sweetener. With half the sweetness of grapes, elderberries and elderberry juice are not bitter like many other high antioxidant fruits, which makes them an extremely versatile flavor or added recipe ingredient to smoothies, waters, teas, juice drinks, ciders, switchels, vinegars, dressings, sauces, cocktails, energy drinks, beer and wine. 

We encourage juice bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, meaderies and drinking establishments of all kinds to consider including midwest grown and processed elderberries and elderflowers in their product lines or menus. 

Grow This Fruit-Garden Favorite

The elderberry often occupied a favored spot in the old-fashioned fruit garden—perhaps a corner where it could grow undisturbed, its branches spreading to 8 feet when laden with fruit, the plant itself growing about 12 feet under good conditions. In early July, the glorious elderblossoms, or elderblow, were picked for wine and jelly making. The buds were pickled, the florets were shaken into pancake and muffin batters to lighten and sweeten them. Later in the season, before the first frosts of autumn, the clusters of shiny purple-black fruit were picked mainly for wine making, although elderberry jelly and pie were also looked on with great favor. The experienced cook knew just where to find the hard sour green apples that, when combined with elderberries, made a firm, flavorful jelly. (Unlike many other small fruits, elderberries do not contain much natural pectin.) Large trays of ripe elderberries were set out in the sun to dry so that elderberry pie could be enjoyed throughout the winter. Link to whole article and 4 recipes. 

Are Raw Native Elderberries Safe? 
Latest research by the University of Missouri discovered that ripe native elderberries do not have any meaningful level of glycosides or proto-cyanides that can make one sick. This is not true for European Sambucus nigra elderberries, which is why those imported ingredients are usually more processed. That is part of the reason why native elderberries taste better.

While the latest research at the university of Missouri (soon to be published) indicates that fresh/frozen, ripe elderberries do not have significant levels of glycosides, some few people seem to be strongly affected by consuming raw elderberries or elderberry juice, where it upsets their digestive system. Why they have a lower tolerance for elderberry is not clearly understood. Fresh and raw frozen berries that are fermented or heated so that the entire volume reaches 180° F, or more have not been associated with any health related incidents to our knowledge

How to Make Elderflower Syrup & Elderflower Cake

Alicia Bayer: (
Print a pdf of her blog post.

elderflower wedding cake

"Windsor Castle released a photograph of the beautiful cake, writing: It was designed by Claire Ptak and features elderflower syrup made at The Queen’s residence in Sandringham from the estate’s own elderflower trees, as well as a light sponge cake uniquely formulated for the couple. Bakers and bloggers around the world have been quick to post their own recipes of elderflower cakes, but most of them call for elderflower liqueur, such as the delicious but quite expensive brand St. Germaine’s.  The cake chosen by Meghan and Harry did not use elderflower liqueur, though, but elderflower syrup.

"Elderflower syrup is a delicious and versatile syrup that can be used in many ways.  You can drizzle it over fresh fruit, use it in alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, add it to recipes instead of simple syrup, and more.”

 “I checked out the other recipes on your page and they look wonderful!  I brought a gallon of elderberry lemonade to visit with some homeschooling friends today and we drank the whole thing.  :)  (My recipe for elderberry lemonade uses either home canned elderberry juice or fresh or frozen elderberries, and I make it daily this time of year for popsicles and cold drinks -- For fresh or frozen berries: I bring 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice, 1 cup frozen elderberries and 2 cups of sugar just to a boil and simmer until the berries release most of their color and flavor and the sugar has become syrup, pour it into a gallon ice tea jug and add cold water to make a gallon, it's a gorgeous magenta and tastes wonderful, and everybody at church asks me to bring it to every pot luck)."

Trimming Stems Off-web

How to Harvest Flowers - Make Elderflower Syrup
MEC Secretary Will Marsh’s Elderflower Lemonade Syrup Recipe
Presented at our July 2016 Elderflower Power Day Event. A simple recipe that is relatively easy to scale up or down and works. 

Click and read this link: Elderflower Harvest Basics 
Personally, I use a sharp, fine blade set of kitchen sheers to destem the flowers. If I just comb them off, I lose the center and pollen. I can chew the centers, taste them, so I do not want to lose that. Unlike the photo, I find it easier and quicker to first cut a branch of the flower cluster off.  Just cut off the flowers fairly close and not overly clean but keeping the green stems to the the minimum that your skill and time permits. For me, it is almost a stripping-cutting motion. -cjp

Chef Gonzalez’s Recipe for Elderflower Syrup:  This recipe  has been provided for members and hobbyists. Anyone interested in the commercial use of this recipe should contact Chef Donald Gonzalez. You can find other recipes online. People also use the dried elderflowers to make elderflower syrup.
[You can also make elderflower syrup from dried elderflowers. - ed]

Elderflower Champagne
Try this recipe out: A similar recipe found here:

How to Make Elderberry Syrup with Dried Elderberries

Martha Stewart:  Click here to read how Martha Stewart does it.

Some Basics on Juicing & Smoothies
Juicing has blossomed into a major diet craze. In cities throughout the U.S., juice bars have seemingly popped up on every corner. Juice cleanses for detoxification and weight loss are all the rage among celebrities. Big chains like Starbucks have even announced their intention to get in on the action with the launch of a new chain of juice bars. But is juicing really good for us? As with many health fads, juicing is a healthy habit that can go wrong when taken to the extreme. But as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, juicing can offer a major dose of antioxidants and vitamins. Remember to add a tablespoon of elderberry juice for each serving to almost any juice blend or smoothie! Download pdf.

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Berry Good Fruit Smoothie w/options

  • 1/2 to 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of protein powder or ¼ - ½ cup of yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of River Hills Harvest ElderBerry Juice
  • 1 cup of frozen berries/berry mixture like strawberries and raspberries, or 1 cup of fresh berries with up to 6 ice cubes
  • Optional sweetener of choice: honey, stevia, etc.
  • Optional fiber: 1 tablespoon of roasted or ground flax seed

First, add the liquid to blender, followed by the yogurt or protein and berries. Add any options, and blend until smooth. Thin it to meet your drinking preference. Download pdf.

Elderberry Juice w/ Apple Cider Vinegar
Courtesy of Gretchen Schempp, Wellness Manager at Oneota Food Coop in Decorah, IA:
1 Tbs River Hills Harvest ElderBerry Juice
1 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
8 oz water
10 drops of stevia (Variations: substitute honey, sugar for the stevia and/or ElderBerry Throat Coat with/instead of the juice)

How to Make Elderberry Mead

Elderberry Lemonade, Ice Tea or Cider
Courtesy of Hard Times Cafe: 2 ounces of River Hills Harvest ElderBerry Juice added to one quart of (organic) lemonade, ice tea or cider.

Elderberry Vinaigrette & Pickled Eggs
Click to open a pdf of two popular recipes featured at Terry Durham’s 2015 Elderberry Workshop in 2015.

Elderberry Fruit Leather
Four measures of apple sauce to one measure of River Hills Harvest ElderBerry Juice. Dehydrate in oven or veggie dehydrator between 115-140 degrees F. Higher temps will likely put a hard skin on the outside and leave the inside too moist.

Purple People Drinker
Fill a Collins glass half or more with ice. Add 2 oz. of vodka, ½-1 oz. of River Hills Harvest ElderBerry Juice, and top off with a ginger beer.
(Note: you can substitute elderberry juice for blackberry or blueberry juice / syrup in most cocktail recipes to good effect. Folks like elderberry Moscow Mules, martinis, margaritas, mojitos, etc. Try some simple  combos with cinnamon/fire whiskeys, gin, ginger, vodka, dry white wines.) 

RHH Facebook friend Kanina Cox shared a drink recipe:
The Hugo “originated from the Tyrol region of Northern Italy. The Hugo consists of muddled mint, lime, elderberry syrup & a champagne or sparkling water (for non alcoholic). It’s like a mojito but with champagne.” You can try substituting RHH ElderBerry Juice in place of the syrup for something less sweet.

Elderflower Beer Making Experience
Courtesy of E. J. Kelley:

Using a base recipe from Northern Brewer:  I started with the Northern Brewer kit for Surly Cynic, which is in Northern Brewer’s partial mash pro series.  The Cynic is a saison style beer.  One could also start with an American pale ale style recipe or perhaps an IPA style recipe. 

I used the elderflower as one would hops.  I did not reduce any of the hopping called for by the Northern Brewer recipe.  With five minutes left in the 60 minute boil, I added one ounce of dried elderflowers to the wort.  (Part of step 12 in the Cynic recipe).  I followed a two-stage fermentation process. With one week left in the secondary fermentation, I added an additional ounce of dried elderflowers.  (Between steps 23 and 24 in the Cynic recipe).  This is akin to dry-hopping. I followed my usual approach to adding sugar water (2/3 cup priming sugar to 16 oz. hot water) to the beer during the bottling process, in order to create carbonation in the bottles.  The beer was more carbonated than usual.  My hunch is that there is sugar in the dried elderflowers that the residual yeast in the beer converted to alcohol, along with the added sugar, which increased the overall carbonation.  So, next time, I would probably cut my priming sugar in half.

© Midwest Elderberry Cooperative 2018