When I posted on Facebook about picking elderberries, a friend mentioned that she had given up because they’re so hard to clean and that reminded me of the first time I picked them in Texas. I came in with warm elderberries from just having cut them, I washed and washed and made sure they were super clean. Then I began picking the berries off the stems. Most of them were being mashed so I had a mess on my hands, on all the towels I would touch, on my clothes . . but worse, I wasn’t making much progress with cleaning the stems and pieces of stems out of the berries. I think I had less than a cup of cleaned berries after about an hour of picking out stems. I said “I can buy dried elderberries and not have to deal with this” and I gave up.
I kept thinking about all those elderberries on the bushes and letting them go to waste so I googled and read and found a quick and easy technique for cleaning them.
This morning I went back to find the info to share with my friend and found this video which pretty much sums it up and makes cleaning a breeze.
I actually didn’t watch the entire video but here are the tips I use:
- Do not wash the berries. Cut them off the shrub and put them in the freezer.
- Do not ever let the berries get wet til you’re ready to process them for jelly, syrup or whatever the final product will be.
- Do not crowd the berries when putting them in the freezer. Every single year, including this one, I stuff berries down into a container. The stems will freeze in whatever shape you mash them into and berries that are loosely placed into a container will be a whole lot easier to work with. Mashing them into a container makes the stems end up like a bird’s nest and the berries are harder to remove.
- After they’re frozen solid, put them in a container with a lid (I use a large bowl with a tight fitting lid), shake them hard for a minute or so. Most berries will fall off the stems. Those that are still attached will easily come off when you touch them.
- Dump the berries into a large metal colander and shake it. Again, don’t wet them and try to work before they start to defrost. Debris will stick to damp berries. A lot of debris will fall out and the pieces of stems that remain will end up on top of the berries and can easily be picked out.
- Once they’re about as clean as they’re going to get, pour the berries into freezer safe containers/bags and keep them in the freezer til ready to use.
- Before using, wash them to remove any remaining dust or debris.
We do not want to consume the green berries. Most of the time, when shaking the berries, the green berries that aren’t ripe will not come loose and will stay attached to the stem. I did read online that the green berries have more pectin and a few left in the mix won’t harm us. Use your own judgment.
Each of the containers in the top picture contain 10 – 12 oz. of berries so I have at least three pounds after two pickings, which is enough for a batch of jelly. I usually like to make two batches of jelly and two batches of syrup. This year we have two shrubs producing and five that were planted in the early spring so hopefully next year, we’ll have seven shrubs/trees that are producing.