Home Made Elderberry Juice Recipe

Autumn to me is apple crumble and plum cake, pumpkin pie and…elderberry juice! In Germany you can readily buy elderberry juice and elderberry lemonade in shops and supermarkets, but I’ve never come across it here in Scotland. Whilst elderflower cordial and lemonade seems to be widely spread here, elderberry not so much. So the only thing to do, to feed my elderberry cravings, is to make our own juice. Luckily, there are plenty of elders growing around the woodlands and riversides near us, so off foraging we go every September/ October (the times may differ depending on where you live). They are fairly easy to recognise, drooping off the trees in their dark black-purple clusters, but as with any foraging, don’t pick anything you are not 100% sure of what it is. And always forage responsibly, leaving enough berries on the trees for wildlife.

WORD OF WARNING! Only the ripe berries and blossoms of elders are safe to eat. The stems, leaves, and unripe berries are toxic. Also, and this is very important, even the ripe berries are toxic when raw. Please DO NOT EAT RAW ELDERBERRIES as they will make you ill! This is especially important to note when foraging with children. My boys are now 8 and 12 so are old enough to understand that the berries go straight in the bag to be processed at home. Once the berries are cooked, they are perfectly safe to eat as the cooking destroys the toxins.


  • 1kg elderberries
  • 500ml water
  • 200g sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon


  • Start by rinsing the berries to get rid of any dirt or insects. Shake off any excess water.
  • Next, you need to remove the berries from the stems. The easiest way to do this is with a fork. Pick out any green or not quite ripe ones.
  • Place the berries in a large saucepan and cover with water. For 1kg berries I use 500ml water.
  • Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover with a lid, and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, or a sieve or colander lined with a muslin.
  • Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil again with the lemon juice and sugar. Then simmer until the sugar has fully dissolved. You can adjust the sugar to taste, if you like things sweet you may want to add more.
  • Fill the hot juice in to sterilised bottles, seal, and leave to cool. For 1kg berries + 500ml water I usually end up with 750ml to 1 litre of juice (it depends a bit on how juice the berries are).

You can drink the juice as is, or you can mix it with sparkling water. We usually do the latter, just to make it last longer.

TIP: You can also freeze elderberries. This year we foraged a LOT of berries, so after prepping them (i.e. removing them from the stems) I put one batch on to boil and portioned the others in to 1kg portions to freeze. So when I want to make more juice, I can just pull out a bag from the freezer and put them straight in to the saucepan.

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