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Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Tools
3. Materials
4. Procedure / technique

Title photo of a batch of Black Elderberries being separated from the stems into a large bowl

1. Intro

Elderberry jelly, syrup and wine are three of the great joys of summer berry season.

This tutorial covers only the portion where we are going to render the berries into juice.

This same technique works equally well with a wide range of other berries and fruits such as blueberries, currants, wild grapes, crabapples, etc.
Once this juice getting process becomes second nature the jelly, syrup or wine can be made at a later date.

First of course is getting the elderberries. That's the subject of another tutorial.

2. Tools For Juice Rendering

Regular kitchen strainer
Fine sieve strainer
Non-reactive pots ( I like stainless steel ) - glass is fine too.
Muslin cloth
Large Bowls
Non-reactive slotted spoon

3. Materials

Black Elderberries.

Sambucus nigra

Elderberry juice

I am a firm believer in 'chore portioning', that is, gathering wild berries for juice rendering in several different expeditions.
It's better to gather some berries part of the day, get them home, render the juice, either freeze or chill it, and then get some more berries on other days to do it again.

You will be surprised how much juice you will have when you keep hoarding it a few times.
And it will not have seemed like a chore at all when you look back at it.

Separate the berries from the stems into a bowl and then pick out the obvious imperfections, bugs and other detritus.
photo of a cluster of Black Elderberries. Some still on stems and some that have been separated from stem.

If you have picked a lot of berries do not try to clean them all at once.
Do portions, such as about half a bowl at each clip. It's much easier to see what kind of berries there are in the bowl when it is only half full rather than if the bowl is filled to the top.

Add enough cold water to cover the berries by a few inches and mix the berries around with your hands.
The agitation will reveal some additional bits of detritus or bad berries that need removed.
The good berries will sink and those that are no good, along with various other bits of matter, will float.
Skim out the floating items.

photo of a batch of Black Elderberries ready for washing

As you have cleaned portions of the berries keep adding them to the strainer until all done.
photo of Black Elderberries washed and draining in strainer

As the summer progresses and you occasionally gather more berries keep adding them to ziplock freezer bags and put them in the freezer until you have enough berries to complete whatever recipe you will be using.

photo of two 1 Gallon Ziplock Freezer bags filled with washed Elderberries

Each bag is one gallon of cleaned Elderberries.

When you are ready to render the berries into juice dump them into a stainless steel pot and simmer slowly.
Add only a bit of water, approximately a cup or two. For jelly or syrup you will be simmering the juice to thicken it anyway so don't start out with a watered down batch.
I use a slotted plastic spoon to mix the batch while simmering and to help squish the berries against the side of the pot to get all the juice from the berries as possible.

photo of washed Black Elderberries being simmered in non-reactive pot and stirred with slotted spoon

A couple of gallons of Elderberries starting to cook up and being mashed.

When you have simmered enough to have rendered the berries into juice it's time to strain and filter.

I use two different types of strainers. One strainer is a bit finer than the second. It keeps most of the pulp and almost every seed from getting to the second strainer. The second strainer helps support the first strainer when I am pushing down the mash with the slotted spoon to force some of the juice out of the mash.
Same thing about portions, as above, applies to mashing. Do it in smaller stages.

Underneath both strainers is a separate stainless steel pot. A glass bowl would do just as well. Aluminum sucks!

photo of cooked Black Elderberries being mashed a bit to help get as much juice from the pulp as possible

Forcing the juicy mash through the fine-sieved strainer.

After every bit of juice is collected from the mash it's time to filter the raw juice that has been collected. Muslin is what you want to use.
A white pillow case which is no longer wanted will work fine. Cut it into a manageable size to fit over a strainer. I use a piece about 2 foot by 2 foot.

Wet the muslin very well and squeeze out the water. If you don't wet the muslin before using it to filter the juice the dry muslin will soak up a lot of your juice. It works best when wet.

Photo of a piece of muslin being wetted. It will be used to filter the juice once good and wet

Wetting the muslin before use in filtering.

Once the muslin is good and wet drape it over the larger strainer in preparation to catch the raw juice already collected.
Place the strainer with the muslin over a pot to catch the juice.

Photo of wet muslin laying in the strainer ready to receive the batch of strained juice

Wet muslin in place and ready to receive the initial strained juice.

Pour the strained juice into the muslin cloth filter. Let it sit awhile and drip into the pot on it's own.
The less you force it through the bag the clearer your jelly or syrup will be.
If the muslin seems to be clogged during the filtering stage ( an indicator would be if the dripping stops ), ( which depends on the type of berry or fruit you are processing ) get another wet one to continue the filtering.
Don't force the juice through the muslin bags. Let it drip through on it's own.

photo of a batch of Black Elderberry juice that has been strained and is now filtering through a wet muslin cloth.

The initial strained juice filtering through the wet muslin.

When you are sure the bag is pretty much done dripping gather the four corners of the muslin together and pick it up.
A bit more will begin dripping again when lifted and held over the pot.
That's okay - but don't be tempted to squeeze.

When satisfied you have enough of the drippings get rid of the mash and soak the bag in cold water so it can be cleaned up later.

photo of a muslin cloth that is full of Black Elderberry mash. Much has filtered through the cloth already and is being lifted for a final dripping

After the dripping stops gather the four corners of the muslin and allow a bit more juice to drip into the pot.
Don't squeeze.

Now you have clean, pure elderberry juice.

For jelly, start by measuring out enough to get three ( 3 ) cups of juice.
Most jelly recipes call for using 3 cups of juice with the appropriate other ingredients.
If you have plenty left to make another batch of jelly do it later after making the first batch all the way through.
Don't be tempted into doubling the recipes because it very seldom works out as good as doing 3 cups at a time.

Also, the juice freezes well in case you want to make more jelly, or whatever, at some other time.

Also, if there is only about a quart left you may consider making syrup.
Elderberry syrup is great.

photo of a batch of Black Elderberry juice all done

Measuring out 3 cup portions for future jelly or syrup projects.

Best way to save the juice not going to be used right away is to put it in a emptied, heavy-duty juice container.
I like Ocean Spray juice containers such as Cranberry or Blueberry, etc.

Black Elderberry Juice Extraction

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