Elderberry Mead?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

582brew

Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2009
Messages
10
Reaction score
1
Location
Willimantic CT
Hello! I had a quick question. My friend came across some elderberries on her property and we were interested in making an elderberry mead with them. I've seen recipes on the forums using dried berries but does anyone have an suggestions on how to tweak these in order to use fresh berries (how much to use etc...)? I've also read that they are very tannic, so if I smash them and strain off the solids would this be ok?
 
OP
OP
582brew

582brew

Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2009
Messages
10
Reaction score
1
Location
Willimantic CT
We thought about it, but since its so late in the season there aren't very many left. We may have 2lbs to work with.
 

gratus fermentatio

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2008
Messages
13,484
Reaction score
4,064
Location
Montana
I'd use the whole 2 pounds of berries added to 5gallons of mead (in secondary), just wash 'em, freeze 'em, thaw them & rack onto them for your secondary. I'd also use pectic enzyme. I think 2 pounds would add a nice, light elderberry flavour while still letting the honey come through. Regards, GF.
 

Emerald

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2009
Messages
237
Reaction score
5
Location
Michigan
If I had only two pounds to work with this year, I think that I would make what my Great Grandma would have called a cordial (?) and just put the berries in canning jars and put good brandy over them and let them sit in a cool dark place and shake at least once a week. She used it for muscle pains and well,, Woman problems:eek:. But I must say, it was a lovely flavor and color for a nice end of the meal drink.
Then next year go and harvest more earlier in the season..
One trick on harvesting. Cut the whole umbel of berries by cutting it and then back home where it is more comfy, just take a bowl and a fork and you use the fork as a small rake to rake the berries off the stem into a big bowl.. Much faster than picking them by hand. I helped Great Grandma quite a few times to de-stem the berries and I treasure those times now.
Hope this helps a bit.

Another thought- an apple/honey/elderberry wine would be yummy!;):D
 

Teromous

Beer Gnome
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 9, 2009
Messages
2,996
Reaction score
596
Location
Virginia Beach
I found this recipe online. Perhaps you could modify it by adding honey:

3 lbs fresh, ripe elderberries
2 lbs finely granulated sugar
3-1/2 quarts water
2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1 crushed Campden tablet
Montrachet wine yeast

Bring water to boil and stir in sugar until dissolved. Meanwhile, wash, inspect and destem the elderberries. Put them in nylon straining bag, tie closed, and put in primary. Wearing sterilized rubber gloves, mash the elderberries and cover with the boiling sugar-water. Cover and set aside to cool. When lukewarm, add acid blend, yeast nutrient and crushed Campden tablet. Cover primary and wait 12 hours, then stir in pectic enzyme. Recover primary and wait another 12 hours, then add yeast. Cover and stir daily, gently squeezing the bag to extract flavor from the berries (don't forget the gloves or you'll be sorry). Ferment 14 days, then drip drain the elderberries (don't squeeze). Combine drippings with juice and set aside overnight. Rack into secondary and fit airlock. Put in dark place to protect the color from light. Ferment two months and rack, top up and refit airlock. Repeat two months later and again two months after that. Stabilize and wait 10 days. Rack, sweeten to taste and bottle. Store bottles in dark place for one year. Then enjoy. [Adapted from Terry Garey's The Joy of Home Winemaking]
 

Lookin4space

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Messages
24
Reaction score
2
Location
Marble Falls
I just Vitamix'd 2 cups of elderberries, funneled it into a Carlo Rossi jug, added a quart of honey and water to top it off, added a bunch of spices (apple pie type) threw in a crushed campden tablet, and corked it. Tomorrow I'll pitch yeast, and in a few days or so I'll rack it through a stainless steel coffee filter, top it off with sterile honey water, and let it continue its journey to mead-dom. If it tastes like crap, I'll cork it and wait a while longer. Unless it tastes funny it usually gets good eventually.
 

fatbloke

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,696
Reaction score
191
Location
UK - South Coast.
Elderberries, being "red" fruit, are best used if they've been heat processed. It removes/neutralises any sambunigrin in the fruit (mild toxin, though I understand it only affects people with a sensitivity to it).

So just simmer them for 10 minutes or so, unless you have access to a steam juice extractor - damn those were invented with elderberries in mind, I'm sure of it (mine works brilliantly).

The only problem with elderberries, is that the flavour of them is rather "generic fruity", and not very sweet. So I'd just use them and maybe either some grape juice or apple juice, and the honey of course.......
 

Lookin4space

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Messages
24
Reaction score
2
Location
Marble Falls
I just racked the stuff I started in August. I did rack out the sludge from the seeds about 3 days after starting, but I racked again earlier this week. Anyway, I usually drink some of the dregs to get an idea about how the brew was doing, and these dregs tasted pretty darn good. Kind of reminded me of cabernet.
 

calicojack

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2011
Messages
103
Reaction score
8
Location
montgomery
i did a one gallon batch with 8 oz of dried elderberries. it stayed in the primary for 4 months, and the secondary another 3. it didn't last long when it came to bottling it. at 7 months old it was VERY drinkable, and VERY good. excellent flavor.
 

robin850

Active Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2011
Messages
40
Reaction score
3
Location
sheboygan
Perhaps I will finally pick those 5-10 lbs of elderberries just sitting there on the bush next to my hives......the recipe looks interesting!

cheers,

robin850
 

LucyM

New Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2011
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
Location
Chattanooga
Possibly my best mead was an Elderberry. I took approx 2 lbs of fruit, threw it in a pot, mashed it up with a potato masher, cooked it down and added just enough sugar to take the sour edge off. I then strained it thru cheesecloth. With the juice (approx 1.5 cups) I added in 3.5 lbs of honey (to compensate for the sourness of the elderberry) added about a half gallon of water and brought to about 170 degrees. Let cool to 95 degrees and pitched montrachet yeast. Poured into a gallon carboy and topped off with water. It fermented quickly and cleared beautifully. %alc was 13.8%. Was on the sweet side, but very complex. I'm entering it into an amateur wine makers competition this winter. It will have aged only 4 months.
 

Luke889

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
7
Location
Wisconsin
i did a one gallon batch with 8 oz of dried elderberries. it stayed in the primary for 4 months, and the secondary another 3. it didn't last long when it came to bottling it. at 7 months old it was VERY drinkable, and VERY good. excellent flavor.
Do dried elderberries need to be cooked before use in a mead? and if so, do you add the water the berries were cooked in into the ferment as well as the berries? I only ask because my bag of elderberries says elderberries should be cooked before consumption.
 

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
my bag of elderberries says elderberries should be cooked before consumption
I try to avoid cooking any of the fruit I use for making wine or mead. Many home winemakers have been using uncooked elderberries for generations.

Here is a good overview: Are Elderberries Poisonous? 4 Important Things to Understand
A few takeaways:
* Elderberries contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, which in large enough quantities can make you sick. Almonds also contain a tiny amount of cyanogenic glycosides
* The quantity of cyanogenic glycosides is much higher in the leaves and stems, so don't use them!
* The American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) has a much lower amount of cyanogenic glycosides than the European Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) (Are Elderberries Poisonous? 4 Important Things to Understand)
* Different people will have different reactions to small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides

Personally, I make my elderberry wine with uncooked American Elderberries. I have never had any problem. I also drink only 1 glass of per day, so I don't know what would happen if you drink a whole bottle.

From a NIH research paper:
A review of the medical literature revealed no reports of elderberry juice poisoning in the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [35] did issue a bulletin about a poisoning incident on 26 August 1983 involving a group in California attributed to consumption of juice prepared from fresh wild elderberries along with leaves and stems (most likely blue elderberry, Sambucus cerulea) [35]. Cyanide was initially implicated in the incident, but was subsequently disproven.

I do not have any medical training, so nothing that I say should be treated as medical advice. If you are concerned, you could simmer your elderberries for 5-10 minutes. You do not need to boil them to death.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
Funny, I had just post a question about elderberries on a couple of other groups tonight.
My post....

Question for the mead masters. I want to make an elderberry mead or a combination of elderberries & other fruits. My concern is the raw berries. All I have read says they will cause vomiting & diarrhea if ingested raw.
For reference, my elderberries are dried, not fresh.
My questions are....
1) How should I go about cooking them?
1 a) Is there a certain amount of time they need to cook?
2) Are they loaded with pectin & will that cooking process bring the pectin (& ensuing haze) forward?

Thank you, in advance, if anybody can answer these questions & concerns on this matter.
@Raptor99, you already answered 1 & 1a. Do you have idea about the pectin question?
As always, thank you, in advance, if you do reply.
 
Last edited:

Luke889

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
7
Location
Wisconsin
I try to avoid cooking any of the fruit I use for making wine or mead. Many home winemakers have been using uncooked elderberries for generations.

Here is a good overview: Are Elderberries Poisonous? 4 Important Things to Understand
A few takeaways:
* Elderberries contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, which in large enough quantities can make you sick. Almonds also contain a tiny amount of cyanogenic glycosides
* The quantity of cyanogenic glycosides is much higher in the leaves and stems, so don't use them!
* The American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) has a much lower amount of cyanogenic glycosides than the European Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) (Are Elderberries Poisonous? 4 Important Things to Understand)
* Different people will have different reactions to small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides

Personally, I make my elderberry wine with uncooked American Elderberries. I have never had any problem. I also drink only 1 glass of per day, so I don't know what would happen if you drink a whole bottle.

From a NIH research paper:


I do not have any medical training, so nothing that I say should be treated as medical advice. If you are concerned, you could simmer your elderberries for 5-10 minutes. You do not need to boil them to death.
Thank you kindly, Raptor99! I've spent some time looking into this myself and getting mixed answers, so your input has really cleared things up quite a bit.
I was thinking I was gonna try a ! gallon batch of mead with a pound of dried elderberries, 10oz. of frozen sweet cherries, a cup of strong earl grey tea, a handful of raisins, a half of a vanilla bean (split down the middle), and of course water.
I have made a few of these small batches of mead so far, but they were really simple recipes. Now I want to get into a little more advanced recipes, and really try to learn how different flavors work together in a brew. Thank you again for your response!
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
I was given a link of one of the Discord groups I belong to. It answers a lot of concerns.

 

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
This is an interesting discussion. Here's another short article https://navitasorganics.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360052769251-Are-Elderberries-toxic- with this intriguing comment:
Many parts of the elder tree, including its bark, roots, and the seeds of its fruit, contain a particular type of glycoside that can cause digestive reactions. The good news? Heat destroys these glycosides, rendering the foods that contain them safe to eat. That’s why the elderberry is traditionally processed with heat (or fermentation) before it’s consumed.
Hm... does fermentation destroy cyanogenic glycosides? I couldn't find a study on wine or mead, but I did find one on lacto-fermentation of flax seed. It turns out that flax seeds also contain cyanogenic glycosides. They found that after 48 hours of fermentation, 99.3% of the cyanogenic glycosides had been destroyed: An efficient fermentation method for the degradation of cyanogenic glycosides in flaxseed - PubMed

Interesting... but there are some caveats:
* this study was on lacto-fermentaion, not wine yeast
* they used flax seed, not elderberries
* the study was done under "optimised conditions"

OTOH, here is an anectdotal report of someone getting sick from eating 1/4 cup of dried elderberries: The Side Effects of Eating Elderberries Raw, A Personal Experience This is a personal experience, not a scientific study. Maybe the author is especially sensitive to cyanogenic glycosides. But I want to look at both sides of this issue.

Many websites say that it is dangerous to eat raw elderberries and that they must be cooked But they are mostly quoting each other, so it has become one of those "everyone knows this" kind of things. I will continue to look for actual scientific studies on this topic. I want to see actual evidence.

Each of us needs to evaluate the evidence and make our own decision depending on our risk tolerance. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this.

@Dan O I don't know whether elderberries have pectic. My completely uneducated guess would be that they do not, or do not have much. But I usually add a dose of pectic enzyme to all my fruit wines/mead to be on the safe side.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
This is an interesting discussion. Here's another short article https://navitasorganics.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360052769251-Are-Elderberries-toxic- with this intriguing comment:

Hm... does fermentation destroy cyanogenic glycosides? I couldn't find a study on wine or mead, but I did find one on lacto-fermentation of flax seed. It turns out that flax seeds also contain cyanogenic glycosides. They found that after 48 hours of fermentation, 99.3% of the cyanogenic glycosides had been destroyed: An efficient fermentation method for the degradation of cyanogenic glycosides in flaxseed - PubMed

Interesting... but there are some caveats:
* this study was on lacto-fermentaion, not wine yeast
* they used flax seed, not elderberries
* the study was done under "optimised conditions"

OTOH, here is an anectdotal report of someone getting sick from eating 1/4 cup of dried elderberries: The Side Effects of Eating Elderberries Raw, A Personal Experience This is a personal experience, not a scientific study. Maybe the author is especially sensitive to cyanogenic glycosides. But I want to look at both sides of this issue.

Many websites say that it is dangerous to eat raw elderberries and that they must be cooked But they are mostly quoting each other, so it has become one of those "everyone knows this" kind of things. I will continue to look for actual scientific studies on this topic. I want to see actual evidence.

Each of us needs to evaluate the evidence and make our own decision depending on our risk tolerance. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this.

@Dan O I don't know whether elderberries have pectic. My completely uneducated guess would be that they do not, or do not have much. But I usually add a dose of pectic enzyme to all my fruit wines/mead to be on the safe side.
On that note about whether fermentation gets rid of them, take a look @ this waiver you have to sign to get a bottle of Schramms elderberry mead....
Just scroll down & see the Liability Waiver
👇👇👇👇👇
 

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
On that note about whether fermentation gets rid of them, take a look @ this waiver you have to sign to get a bottle of Schramms elderberry mead....
Just scroll down & see the Liability Waiver
👇👇👇👇👇
Wow, I wonder how many people decide not to purchase after reading that. The company wants to keep themselves covered in case of a lawsuit. I wonder what percentage of the population is "allergic or sensitive to elderberries," a phrase they use in the waive. Since they are calling it "allergic or sensitive" it implies that it might not bother some people. Of course some people are "allergic or sensitive" to gluten as well. It's difficult to tell if this might be a more serious reaction.

I'd still like to see a scientific study on the effect of fermenting elderberries.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
Wow, I wonder how many people decide not to purchase after reading that. The company wants to keep themselves covered in case of a lawsuit. I wonder what percentage of the population is "allergic or sensitive to elderberries," a phrase they use in the waive. Since they are calling it "allergic or sensitive" it implies that it might not bother some people. Of course some people are "allergic or sensitive" to gluten as well. It's difficult to tell if this might be a more serious reaction.

I'd still like to see a scientific study on the effect of fermenting elderberries.
Gluten, nuts, pollen, pet dander. The world is full of sensitivities & allergies nowadays.
 

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
Don't forget peanuts. The questions are (1) How common is it, and (2) How serious is it. Some allergies are only a minor irritation, while others can be deadly.

I suppose that if I thought I was sensitive to elderberry, I would consume only a sip and see how I felt over the next 24 hours.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
Don't forget peanuts. The questions are (1) How common is it, and (2) How serious is it. Some allergies are only a minor irritation, while others can be deadly.

I suppose that if I thought I was sensitive to elderberry, I would consume only a sip and see how I felt over the next 24 hours.
Gluten, nuts, pollen, pet dander.
😋
I take a couple of elderberry gummies every day. Yes, it's only a small amount. If I make this mead, I won't be drinking a quart a day to see if I get a reaction🤣
 

Luke889

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
7
Location
Wisconsin
I'm happy I found this website. thanks for the insights guys. It's a pretty interesting little rabbit hole to go down. I figure I'm just gonna simmer them for about 10-15 minutes and then add the berries and liquid into primary. Better to be safe than diarrhea. :thumbsup:
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
I'm happy I found this website. thanks for the insights guys. It's a pretty interesting little rabbit hole to go down. I figure I'm just gonna simmer them for about 10-15 minutes and then add the berries and liquid into primary. Better to be safe than diarrhea. :thumbsup:
I have asked Dr. Bray Denard, AKA the inventor of th BOMM, AKA loveofroses, He says bring them to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Also ok to use the berries & juice you get from simmering, (my suggestion is to use a brew bag for the fruit). The berries can be gently mashed, but, don't mash too hard, as the seeds release toxins & taste bitter. He also recommended for a one gallon batch, to start with 3 oz of berries, saying you could always add more later on.
I hope this helps you.
Happy meading 😎
 

Luke889

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
7
Location
Wisconsin
Thanks again for the tip, Dan. I was planning on using a full pound of berries, but because I saw your reply about using 3oz. to start for one gallon I started to read through some more posts on this thread and realized that 1 lb. would most likely be too much, and a waste of berries as well. This makes me reconsider my cherry input as well, since I want the predominant flavor of this mead to be elderberry. maybe I'll just scratch the cherries from the recipe, or just toss a few in there. As always, any advice or suggestions are more than welcome from anybody. :)
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
Thanks again for the tip, Dan. I was planning on using a full pound of berries, but because I saw your reply about using 3oz. to start for one gallon I started to read through some more posts on this thread and realized that 1 lb. would most likely be too much, and a waste of berries as well. This makes me reconsider my cherry input as well, since I want the predominant flavor of this mead to be elderberry. maybe I'll just scratch the cherries from the recipe, or just toss a few in there. As always, any advice or suggestions are more than welcome from anybody. :)
Are you using dried or fresh berries?that will make a difference as well.
3 oz dried....I would do no more than 8 oz fresh. Like he said, you can always add more later if you think it needs it.
 

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
For my elderberry wine, I use 5 lbs. of fresh berries per gallon. But if I was doing an elderberry mead I would use less so that the honey flavor came through.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
For my elderberry wine, I use 5 lbs. of fresh berries per gallon. But if I was doing an elderberry mead I would use less so that the honey flavor came through.
When using that much elderberries, do you get the Goo they refer to?
 

Attachments

  • SmartSelect_20221123_040918_Chrome.jpg
    SmartSelect_20221123_040918_Chrome.jpg
    433.3 KB · Views: 0

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
Oh yes, I get the dreaded green goo! But elderberry wine is so good that it is worth going through the trouble.

I think that the goo comes from the waxy coating on the berries. I am careful to remove all the stems.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
Oh yes, I get the dreaded green goo! But elderberry wine is so good that it is worth going through the trouble.

I think that the goo comes from the waxy coating on the berries. I am careful to remove all the stems.
What is your cleanup method? Are you using buckets or glass carboys?

That article says ...
"The goo cannot be cleaned with water or soap or cleansers or solvents or spirits. However, it is easily cut with vegetable oil and cleanly wiped from the primary. The oil is then washed away with a liquid soap containing a degreaser. Rinse well and then sanitize with sulfite solution."

Thank you, in advance, if you do reply. Happy meading 😎
 
Last edited:

Raptor99

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
222
Reaction score
134
I use a bucket for primary and a glass carboy for secondary. As you saw in the article that you quoted, most of my equipment can be cleaned by scrubbing with vegetable oil and letting it soak for a few minutes, then washing with dish soap. It's trickier to clean tubing, so for the first racking I used my old auto siphon instead of my AIO pump.

Last time there was so much goo on my primary 5-gal bucket that I decided to just get a new bucket. Food grade 5-gal. buckets are cheap at Home Depot or Lowes. But I got the glass carboy clean.
 

Dan O

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
822
Reaction score
539
Location
HAMPSTEAD
I use a bucket for primary and a glass carboy for secondary. As you saw in the article that you quoted, most of my equipment can be cleaned by scrubbing with vegetable oil and letting it soak for a few minutes, then washing with dish soap. It's trickier to clean tubing, so for the first racking I used my old auto siphon instead of my AIO pump.

Last time there was so much goo on my primary 5-gal bucket that I decided to just get a new bucket. Food grade 5-gal. buckets are cheap at Home Depot or Lowes. But I got the glass carboy clean.
Thank you. This has been a concern for me since I first read about it. I just had to find someone who had actually dealt with it to be sure the article was accurate.
 

Luke889

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 19, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
7
Location
Wisconsin
Does any body know if the green goo problem happens if you just use the liquid from the berries after a long low simmer? I've read about this problem and I was wondering how much of a difference it would make if I just used a strong elderberry tea instead of pitching the berries right into primary. would it take away to much from the flavor? Would the green goo carry over in the tea? i might make 2 one gallon batches, one of them with tea and one with berries, to do a side by side comparison and maybe answer these questions. Might be an experiment worth doing...
 
Top