Storage and Selection
Before you bring your berries into the kitchen, it’s important to make sure you select the cream of the crop. Look for specimens that are firm and feel heavy for their size while avoiding any berries that are overly soft or have tell-tale signs of decay. Once you’re satisfied with your berries, loosely store them in the refrigerator. If given a minimal amount of airflow, they should last about a week before spoiling.
Know Your Varieties
As with all fruits and vegetables, different varieties of elderberries are better suited to different tasks. Stateside, you’re most likely to come across the Adams, Johns, or York varieties. If you’re looking to make elderberry pie, Adams elderberries are a great option because of their large size and juicy flesh. Johns elderberries, on the other hand, are a bit softer, so they’re better suited for jams or jellies. Finally, if you’re looking to get a lot of fruit, stick with Yorks; they’re the largest variety of them all!
Things Are Heating Up
It’s extremely important to always cook your elderberries before serving. Unlike your standard culinary berry, raw elderberries can be toxic and require cooking to become 100% safe. Though raw berries are considered edible, you’re still better off cooking them beforehand. Once they’re heated up, elderberries are quite delicious and can be used for many different culinary applications.
A Flavor To Remember
Flavor wise, elderberries are particularly tart, but American varieties tend to be sweeter than ones you’ll find around the globe. Luckily, the cooking process will mellow out some of this tartness without losing the flavor that makes elderberries so unique in the first place. After cooking, you’ll end up with a wonderfully potent balance of tart and sweet flavors, resulting in a berry that really shines in jams, jellies, and baked goods. In terms of pairing ingredients, we’d recommend working with fall spices; cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg can be true rockstars in an elderberry pie!
Since elderberries have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, you’d be right to assume that they have a stellar nutritional profile. Each serving is a great source of fiber, copper, and vitamins A and C. On top of that, elderberries are extremely low in fat and have zero traces of cholesterol or sodium!