Elderberry - simmer before cold soak/ferment or not?

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BarrelMonkey

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I'm about to try making elderberry wine for the first time. I've looked over about a dozen recipes and these two stood out to me as particularly useful:

Balanced Elderberry Wine
How to make Elderberry Wine

Several recipes (including the second one above) call for heating up and simmering the fruit before doing the cold soak and/or ferment. For those of you who've made elderberry wine, do you have any words of wisdom to offer? Is this worth doing, and/or does it have any downsides?

Thanks in advance!
 
I'm about to try making elderberry wine for the first time. I've looked over about a dozen recipes and these two stood out to me as particularly useful:

Balanced Elderberry Wine
How to make Elderberry Wine

Several recipes (including the second one above) call for heating up and simmering the fruit before doing the cold soak and/or ferment. For those of you who've made elderberry wine, do you have any words of wisdom to offer? Is this worth doing, and/or does it have any downsides?

Thanks in advance!
I've never made elderberry, but have made many other wines from grapes and fruit. One of the issues that you create by heating is that you enable the pectin to set, which makes clearing very difficult. Elderberry is low in pectin, so it may not be as much of an issue as other fruits, but can still be a big PIA to clear. If your bound and determined to cook it, make sure to use lots of pectic enzymes in your must to counteract the cooking, this should help with clearing, and you may still need to add some more down the road. A good enzyme like Lallzyme EX-V is probably a more effective way to get all the goodies from your berries, and it won't introduce that "cooked" flavor into your wine.
 
I made elderberry wine several times. Only one did I resort to any kind of cooking of them. My wife and I were out of town at the height of picking time and had to pay for our elderberry, unfortunately many were green, so we removed as many of those as practical and blanched the remaining berries, just to be safe. It wasn't the best wine we ever made.
 
I've never made elderberry, but have made many other wines from grapes and fruit. One of the issues that you create by heating is that you enable the pectin to set, which makes clearing very difficult. Elderberry is low in pectin, so it may not be as much of an issue as other fruits, but can still be a big PIA to clear. If your bound and determined to cook it, make sure to use lots of pectic enzymes in your must to counteract the cooking, this should help with clearing, and you may still need to add some more down the road. A good enzyme like Lallzyme EX-V is probably a more effective way to get all the goodies from your berries, and it won't introduce that "cooked" flavor into your wine.
Yep. Going in heavy on the pectinase, even though as you say the elderberry is low in pectin. Thanks.

The alternative to simmering the berries directly would be to do a steam extraction.
Interesting - could you outline how this would work in practice? I'm pretty sure I don't have a big enough steamer to make this work...

It seems the main impetus for cooking elderberries is to make them more digestible, since there have been reports of problems with people drinking raw juice. But fermented juice is not raw juice, of course.
 
I have done several elderberries and never heated, only RT fermenting with the berry. Would be interesting to do old soaking and see if the green goo doesn’t happen. My impression in pie was that elderberry isn’t a very heat stable color pigment.

My favorite is to not use water in the recipe but to use Concord grape juice. My feeling is that concord is short on long tannic flavor notes and the elderberry is short on fruity aromatics, ,,, so I build a balanced finished wine. Finished sugar is put at about 1.002.
Several recipes (including the second one above) call for heating up and simmering the fruit before doing the cold soak and/or ferment. For those of you who've made elderberry wine, do you have any words of wisdom to offer? Is this worth doing,
 
I am in the process of cold soaking 40 lbs of elderberries, I will probably shoot for a 6 gal batch. I made 5 gal last year using a recipe similar to the one you posted. This year I will use go ferm and fermaid k , I had to resolve a Hydrogen sulfide issue and only wonder if it was lacking enough nutrient or not. I did add oak spirals for a short time in secondary. I will add oak in primary and secondary this time, I think it adds a nice touch to elderberry. I have only slightly sampled last years wine but plan on a few more months before I consider bottling..
 
Make two wines, one boiled, one on the pulp. It's your wine, another makers taste will be different to yours. Whichever way you decide to go, Elderberry is usually a keeper. Don't try to drink it too young or you'll be disappointed.

Maybe next year when my elderberry patch is more mature (and I am more proactive in competing with the birds...) I have about 6lb fruit, should be plenty for one gallon but seems a bit skimpy for two.
 
My favorite is to not use water in the recipe but to use Concord grape juice. My feeling is that concord is short on long tannic flavor notes and the elderberry is short on fruity aromatics, ,,, so I build a balanced finished wine.

One of the other recipes I considered (this one) has a can of grape juice concentrate added. I was dubious since I don't really like concord grape, but you make a good point about bumping up the aromatics.

ETA: This recipe pours boiling water over the crushed fruit. So not quite simmering, but not plain cold fruit either...
 
I know it's a bit gauche to post multiple replies to your own thread, but I thought I'd update with what I actually did. After a few more harvests I was able to get 9lb of elderberries so I decided to make a 3 gallon batch. Many of the recipes I found suggested that 3lb/gallon was enough, though it seems the consensus around here is that more is better. I also had lots of ripe Black Monukka grapes on hand, so taking note of @Rice_Guy's suggestion I added 2lb of them as well. I may even add another lb before fermentation starts, we'll see.

My usual practice with recipes is to look at a whole bunch and then do my own thing, but this time I decided to follow the process laid out at honest-food.net (How to make Elderberry Wine ). This is one of the recipes that heats the berries to a simmer before cold soaking.

I don't have a good means of crushing elderberries so I gave them a few quick pulses if the blender; nevertheless I'm a bit concerned that I may have overdone it. There was definitely plenty of puree as well as just broken berries.

I heated the fruit up with sugar and water - it took forever but smelled fantastic. I did not actually let it simmer but took off the heat when it was close to 100 C. Disappointingly (but I suppose predictably) it now has a distinct 'cooked' smell - prominent tannins too. I'm hoping to recover some of that fruitiness through fermentation, and maybe some more of the Black Monukka as noted above?

I made sequential additions of sugar and tartaric acid to take brix, pH and TA to 23.0, 3.66 and 6.15g/L respectively. I think I'm going to leave it like that. Not sure I'm going to get much more out of cold soaking so planning to pitch yeast later today and (hopefully) off to the races.
 
freezing the elderberries before fermenting does a great job of splitting the skins, I'm in the middle of another 8 gal batch split into two buckets without even pushing down on the mesh bag much each day the must is a thick very dark red color the juice has no problem coming out of the skins without simmering or crushing.
 
I know it’s an old thread but I heard fresh elderberries are toxic and must be cooked for 45 minutes. I read Keller’s recipies, he has 2 abdd def one of them has cooked elderberries and the other one fresh with water, uncooked. I’m going to help a friend of mine to make elderberry wine and he is very concerned about uncooked elderberries. Is it safe? If you cook them , do you add the remaining skins to the must, or throw them out ?
 
I know it’s an old thread but I heard fresh elderberries are toxic and must be cooked for 45 minutes. I read Keller’s recipies, he has 2 abdd def one of them has cooked elderberries and the other one fresh with water, uncooked. I’m going to help a friend of mine to make elderberry wine and he is very concerned about uncooked elderberries. Is it safe? If you cook them , do you add the remaining skins to the must, or throw them out ?
No need to cook elderberries, fermentation has the same result.
 
I'm about to try making elderberry wine for the first time. I've looked over about a dozen recipes and these two stood out to me as particularly useful:

Balanced Elderberry Wine
How to make Elderberry Wine

Several recipes (including the second one above) call for heating up and simmering the fruit before doing the cold soak and/or ferment. For those of you who've made elderberry wine, do you have any words of wisdom to offer? Is this worth doing, and/or does it have any downsides?

Thanks in advance!
downside of simmering is that you will lose aromatics. Unheated elderberry will smell better. If you freeze and thaw it with pectic enzyme or use it fresh you'll get something much better. That is why we never heat any fruit or honey.
 
downside of simmering is that you will lose aromatics. Unheated elderberry will smell better. If you freeze and thaw it with pectic enzyme or use it fresh you'll get something much better. That is why we never heat any fruit or honey.
Yes I only did that for my first attempt (2021), subsequently just freeze/thaw. Too early to compare my more recent (2022, 2023) batches - they're not in bottle yet - but so far so good, with the caveat of surprisingly high TA as I mentioned in another thread. And to @Ericphotoart, I agree with what's been said above that fermentation should neutralize the cyanogenic glycosides which are the potentially toxic compounds...
 
Yes I only did that for my first attempt (2021), subsequently just freeze/thaw. Too early to compare my more recent (2022, 2023) batches - they're not in bottle yet - but so far so good, with the caveat of surprisingly high TA as I mentioned in another thread. And to @Ericphotoart, I agree with what's been said above that fermentation should neutralize the cyanogenic glycosides which are the potentially toxic compounds...
get the seeds out at sg 1.030-1.050
 
I know it’s an old thread but I heard fresh elderberries are toxic and must be cooked for 45 minutes.
That bit of "wisdom" will not go away and I still see it now and then.

From my readings all parts of the plant are poisonous and UNRIPE berries are toxic. Last year for the 1st time I had 4 different elderberry varieties producing and ate a few handfuls of fresh picked berries to compare flavor. I'm still here.

Personally I never cook fruit but will often use hot water, 160ish F. I like to think the hot water extracts more color but who knows for sure.
 
That bit of "wisdom" will not go away and I still see it now and then.

From my readings all parts of the plant are poisonous and UNRIPE berries are toxic. Last year for the 1st time I had 4 different elderberry varieties producing and ate a few handfuls of fresh picked berries to compare flavor. I'm still here.

Personally I never cook fruit but will often use hot water, 160ish F. I like to think the hot water extracts more color but who knows for sure.
I've only used dried elderberries and use them a lot especially on wines containing blackberries at 6 lb frozen wild blackberries per gallon and 1 lb dried elderberrries (e.g. Oregon or Bulgaria) for 5 Imperial gallons of water. They haven't killed me yet! We take all seeds out of the must by pressing it in a pneumatic stainless steel bladder press at SG 1.030 to 1.050 (all fruit soaked with pectic enzyme)
 
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I've only used dried elderberries and use them a lot especially on wines containing blackberries at 6 lb frozen wild blackberries per gallon and 1 lb dried elderberrries (e.g. Oregon or Bulgaria) for 5 Imperial gallons of water. They haven't killed me yet! We take all seeds out of the must by pressing it in a pneumatic stainless steel bladder press at SG 1.030 to 1.050 (all fruit soaked with pectic enzyme)
Last year was my first harvest. I was pretty sure I wouldn't have enough for wine so I supplemented with organic dried (sambucus nigra) sourced "from Europe". Interestingly, the package says to cook or boil for 20 minutes prior to consumption.
Well......
Did some checking and there is only one documented case of elderberry poisoning, 8/26/83, where juice was extracted from the berries (sambucus mexicana) AND leaves AND twigs using a stainless steel press. 11 people reported nausea and cramps, one was hospitalized overnight, all quickly recovered. FWIW, the alkaloids and glycosides are also in almonds.

BTW, the flavor difference of my four varieties was minor but definitely noticeable. I look forward to the day when I'll have enough for varietal batches of wine.
 

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