Last week, the wild elderberries were ripe and ready to be picked. My dad, my son and I set out to harvest the tiny berries. We found two varieties-one with reddish purple berries and one with a dark purple, almost black berry. The stems on the reddish berries were also purple, while the black elderberries has green stems. We simply cut the heads off the bush and put them in buckets to bring home.
We gave most to my aunt to make into jelly. In return she gave us one dozen jars of the finished elderberry jelly.
My kids and I took turns taking the berries off the heads. This is a tedious job and I have not really found any easy way to do it. First I wash the berries. A fork can be used to rake the berries off, but it seems easiest to just pull them off by hand. I've tried freezing them and the berries do come off easier, but get more of the tiny stems which then need to be picked out. We also make sure to pick out any green berries as these are toxic.
I boiled the berries and then strained to make a juice for syrup. If I wanted to make jelly, I'd use the same process to make the juice and then proceed with jelly. For syrup, I simply add sugar or stevia and cook until it is the right thickness. I keep it in the fridge. The juice can also be frozen.
I froze the remainder of my berries to be used over the winter in a variety of ways.