Natural yeast in Elderberries

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Apr 23, 2009
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Has anyone made an Elderberry wine using only the natural yeast found in the fruit? Comments please.
I have not.
Most here have not. Winemaking is an art and you want to copy that by doing the same thing each time. One way is to control the whole process from choosing the wine yeast to the temps. I'm sure some who have made this wine will jump in and suggest a yeast.
Elderberries, at least here in Europe, have a nasty ingredient called sambunigrin.
There is a lot of controversion about it, but in most herbal catalogues etc, again at least here in Europe, it is called poisenous or at least causing reactions.
So to get rid of the sambunigrin it is recommended that you heat the berries. In fact I boil them in water.
That kills all wild yeast.

Now maybe and just maybe the US varieties are not having the same problem. But I would not risk it.

I will however be making elderflower wine this year and I was planning to use the wild yeast on that.
It is still to early in season to harvest elderflowers over here but they are budding, so it will not take long anymore.

Even though I have not made elderberry wine I have read quite a bit about this to answer questions on the forums that I help run have have read that this poison which is a type of cyanide but is really only found in the green (raw & unripe) berries, stems, and leaves. I dont recommend going with a natural yeast as most wont get you to far along the lines of a finished fermentation or will leave you with unwabted flavors and smells. I suggest you at least use a bakers yeast but wine yeast is a better choice.
Even though I have not made elderberry wine I have read quite a bit about this to answer questions on the forums that I help run have have read that this poison which is a type of cyanide but is really only found in the green (raw & unripe) berries, stems, and leaves.

I have made loads of elderberry wines and mixes of elderbery-blackberry.
It is my favorite winter-season wine. Each year I make at least about 16 gallon.

I have read many information on people getting sick
from eating elderberries. But the maybe European
varieties might be different as US versions are.
Remember that when people make jam from them, they are heated to.

Have you picked any Wade ???
Do you realise how difficult it is to make sure that no green ones
mix with the ripe ones ???

I give boiling the benefit of the doubt. Better safe as sorry.
Just be warned and do as you wish.

No I have not but plan to if I can find some. I dont dought you 1 bit on this info Luc, just posting what I have read and what you posted is whatis called playing it safe which I would recommend!
Luc is right about certain elderberry species. Many of them are poisonous raw or when the berries are not fully ripe. Sambucus nigra is considered poisonous; it's native to Europe and and is commonly called European Elderberry.

There are also several red coloured species with flat clusters whose berries are poisonous (or can make you sick). Some of these grow in the Americas, especially on the west coast as north as northern BC.

But the most common species of elderberry here is Sambucus canadensis, which of course grows in Canada, but also as far south as Mexico. I picked tons when I lived in Florida, and there's lots in the NCC parks around Ottawa here. They are not poisonous, raw or cooked. But because potentially more than one species of elderberry may grow in your area, it's best to take a sample to your local agricultural extension for positive identification. I wouldn't trust an unidentified elder species even cooked.

The elderberry plants that you buy from garden stores in North America are cultivars of Sambucus canadensis, so you're ok if you go that route. Naturalizing them on your property even if you don't make them into wine is great for wildlife. I've used canadensis raw in wines for nearly 30 years now and never had a problem with them. A Google lookup should offer a bit more comfort with this particular species, but remember accurate identification is the key.
I am concidering making a batch of elderberry but will use a can of wine base. Do you need to add the flowers to that if so when? Luc can you describe the flavour? I really like the berry wines and saw a can on sale for $25. Seemed like a good price and with me being a tight a** I probably wont pass it up a second time.:p
Was it the Vintners Harvest Wine Base? I have done a few varieties of those and most are very good but use the 3 gallon batch recipe and go by what sg you want and start off lower with the amount of sugar specified as they usually come out higher and the amount of water always seems to be more then needed also. You will not need flowers for the wine base.

we are talking about 2 different wines here.

First Elderberry wine which can be made around August-September over here when the berries are ripe.
They do not need any addition of flowers. I sometime mix them with blackberries and that even gives a better wine.
A heavy dark port style wine.

The other wine I was talking about is elderflower wine.
That is a white wine made from the petals of the elder, and sometimes from the complete screens.
It produces a fenomenal taste just like lychees.
I make loads of syrup from the flowers each year. Great for making icecream, or topping up icecream, or just as a nice beverage.
You can even make wine from the syrup. The recipes are here:

Last year I made about 3 gallon of this wine (10 liter).
Then I made 3 gallon from the fresh flowers and that was one of my best whites.
This year I am aiming at making 90 liter of fresh flowers instead of the syrup.

As eldferflowers are budding over here I will give you next week a really easy harvesting method on my web-log :b