Elderberry Wine

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Picking sloes

The wine making all started up again because of two things.

  1. A friend telling us about her bumper grape harvest and “we should make wine from them”
  2. an idle conversation whilst having a delightful autumn berry picking walk  with the kids.

Huge bunches of elderberries were hanging from the bushes that day but we were out for sloes and blackberries.  The elderberries did look inviting so I went back a couple of days later and collected what I thought was enough for a demijohn of wine.  I had no idea what I was doing of course.  We also dug out the old home brew kit.  The yeast was disgusting looking.  I couldn’t imagine that it had survived 15 years in the pot.

I did a lot of looking around for a recipe and in the end came up with my own version based on the Wine Making Guides web site.  This is the method I used, but from memory because I was really making it up as I went along.


  • 1.35 kg fresh elderberries, topped up with blackberries because you didn’t pick enough
  • 1.35 ish kg granulated sugar, not measured too carefully
  • 8 pints water
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid you have lying around from the science clubs you ran
  • 1 teaspoon 15 year old manky looking wine yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fluffy looking wine nutrient that also looks past its best


What to Do

  1.  Strip the berries from the stalks using your fingers, getting thoroughly messy in the process (I later learned that a FORK is the preferred option for this).
  2. Far too late, don an apron to prevent further damage to clothes and relationship with wife.
  3. Forget to crush the berries.
  4. Put the berries in 4 pints of boiling water, leave to cool.  Mash them when you realise that this is probably quite an important step not to leave out.
  5. Dissolve the sugar in 4 more pints of boiling water and strain the berries through a sieve in to the sugar.
  6. Add the citric acid, nutrient and yeast.
  7. Find a demijohn in the roof of the garage.  Gasp at how dirty it has got.  Clean it for ages using bottle brush, excellent magic balls and 15 year old sterilising solution.  Don’t bother to read the instructions (I think I should have sterilised for longer).
  8. Pour the liquid into a demijohn and seal with an airlock.
  9. Store the wine in a warm place and wait for the fermentation to start.  Checking approximately every 15 minutes until your family shout at you.
  10. After four days of checking, feel depressed and decide that the aged yeast was probably bad idea.  Cycle to the local home brew shop and back (40km) and return bearing yeast!   Put a teaspoon in the jar.
  11. Celebrate wildly when the fermentation appears to start a few hours and post on Facebook.

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  12. Sit back contentedly and wait for the fermentation to work itself out.
  13. Panic wildly when the fermentation is so vigorous it bursts out of the airlock and splatters the wall.  Put back in to a large saucepan for a couple of days.
  14. When fermentation has slowed to less cataclysmic levels, put back in to a demijohn and allow the fermentation to work itself out.

That’s where I am now – we tasted it and it actually wasn’t too bad, certainly a chance it will be drinkable in a few months/years.


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