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Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine: Elderberry Wine

Sambucus canadensis berries

Wine can be made from both the flowers and berries of various elder plants including American elder (Sambucus canadensis) and European elder (S. nigra). In her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine (published 1909), my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, includes seven wine recipes and one flavored water recipe that use either the elder flowers or berries. She does not specify the species of elder but since she collected her recipes in Massachusetts it is likely that the American elder is intended. Both American and European elders are deciduous shrubs with the European species taller, less hardy, and more weedy than its American cousin. Both have flat, 10″ wide clusters of flowers in June followed by black berries in late summer. The berries of both species are used for jams, jellies and pie fillings as well as wine. Photo Credit H. Zell Wikipedia

Here is the recipe for elderberry wine in the words of my grandmother:

Nine quarts elderberry juice, nine quarts water, eleven and one-half pounds white sugar, two ounces red tartar. These are put into a cask, a little yeast added, and the whole is fermented. When undergoing fermentation, one ounce ginger root, one ounce allspice, one-quarter ounce cloves are put into a bag of clean cotton cloth, and suspended in the cask. They will give a pleasant flavor to the wine, which will become clear in about two months, and may be drawn off and bottled. Add some brandy to this wine, but if the fermentation is properly conducted, this is not necessary.

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