Blog, Booze Recipes, Fermentation Recipes, Homebrew Recipes, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: One Gallon of Elderberry Mead

Amber Shehan August 23, 2014

elderberries

Elderberries are delicious! So is Elderberry Mead. 

Even more than just being tasty, elderberries are useful and quite a potent medicine. I make jars full of elderberry tincture and cordial all throughout the year to stock up for fall and winter coughs, colds and flu.

I’m currently on the hunt in my neck of the woods for a fresh elder patch so that I can forage fresh berries, but until then, I’ve been using dried berries from Mountain Rose Herbs. (2017 update – I have two baby elder bushes growing stronger every day. I’ll make my own patch!)

Here’s few posts from fellow bloggers who have covered the goodness of elderberries:

Recipe for Elderberry Mead (1 gallon) from Pixiespocket.com

Make your own batch of delicious, healthful elderberry mead!

I love it when tasty and healthy go together so well…especially in something like home-made booze!

Now, I don’t encourage you to over-drink if you are feeling ill, but alcohol has its own beneficial purposes when used sparingly. Elderberry mead is a great drink of choice for when you feel yourself coming down with a cold and need to get some rest – try it mulled (warmed with spices like cinnamon, clove, etc.) for a bedtime drink.


One Gallon of Elderberry Mead

This particular batch was started on January 20, 2014, bottled on April 20, 2014, and the first bottle was opened on August 9, 2014! It didn’t last long. 

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of water (filtered is best)
  • 2-3 lbs of honey
  • Large handful of dried elderberries
  • Thumb sized bit of fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 small handful of raisins or other dried fruit (organic is best)
  • 1 slice dried lime
  • 1/2 packet of yeast (champagne yeast for dry, sweet wine or mead yeast for a sweeter result)

Procedure

Grab a large stockpot and add about 2/3 of a gallon of water to the pot.  Add the diced ginger and allow it to come to a boil.

While the water heats, sanitize your gallon carboy, airlocks, bungs, and funnel with a store-bought sanitizer, or try a bleach and water mix. Make sure you rinse it well afterwards if you use bleach!

When the water is at a steady, rolling boil, throw in the dried lime, raisins, and the handful of dried elderberries. Cover the pot, turn off the stove and remove the stockpot from heat.

Let it wait for about 15 minutes, and then add the honey and stir well to dissolve. Let it cool down for a bit, and then set the funnel in the neck of the carboy and pour in everything – the hot honey water (also known as must), ginger, and berries. Pour in the rest of the gallon of water until the must is up to the neck of the carboy. Add in the bung and the airlock to keep everything clean.

Allow the must to cool down to body temperature before you pitch your yeast – this can take a few hours so I sometimes just leave it overnight. In the morning you can pitch your yeast into the jug. Since it is a gallon batch, you can add only a half of a packet of yeast and re-cap with the airlock.

Racking, Back-sweetening, Bottling

By late March, the jug had cleared and the mead looked to be mostly ready. I took the airlock out and used a sanitized straw to taste a bit of the mead. It needed more sweetening, so I made a sugar syrup and added it to a clean, sanitized carboy, leaving behind the ginger chunks and elderberries for the compost bin. I racked the mead onto the sugar syrup and let it sit again for a few weeks to ensure that fermentation was completed. On April 20, I bottled the mead (in beer bottles with beer caps!) and let it rest until August.

Tasting

Ok! So the results are in. This is a nice, light mead that turned out a bit dry. The berry flavor is light but definitely present, and stronger if I add additional sugar syrup to my glass. Even though I waited to bottle it until the fermentation seemed to be complete, there are some bubbles in this batch. That tells me that there is residual yeast that continued to grow after bottling.

This is a mead that I will make again, although I plan to double the elderberries and maybe add some cinnamon instead of a lime…*planning & plotting*


Header Image Credit: Stanze on Flickr

Amber Shehan

Hi! I'm Amber Pixie, and this is my site. Enjoy the recipes, information, posts, and please feel free to message me if you have questions!

23 Comments

  1. Mandy on June 30, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Did you end up making the elderberry mead again, if so did it turn out better and what did you do differently? Thanks

    • Amber Shehan on June 30, 2015 at 10:57 am

      I haven’t made it again…yet! I plan to start it in July so that it will be ready by fall. I have only one beer bottle of elderberry mead left, and it honestly is aging so well that I might make a bigger batch so that it will last longer! The age mellowed out the berry flavor and blended it with the bit of sweet honey flavor. I do find myself adding a bit of sugar or honey syrup to this, but a few of my friends prefer the dry version. 🙂

      Next time, I’m going to let it ferment longer in the jug so it isn’t fizzy in the bottles, that’s for sure!

      • Ted Mann on July 24, 2018 at 1:19 am

        Add Camden tablets before you back sweeten the mead. It will kill the yeast and stop your secondary fermentation.

        • Amber Pixie on July 24, 2018 at 9:49 am

          Thanks for the tip, Ted! I know many brewers who use those with great results, but I have a sulfite sensitivity and prefer to brew without using campden tablets.

      • Jeri Bastian on August 4, 2019 at 9:49 pm

        I put cardamom in my elderberry mead and it’s delightful. I will definitely try the ginger. It sounds like a lovely compliment to the elderberry. I also use orange or tangerine instead of lime. (I prefer the tangerine). I’m so glad I found your site!
        P.S. I make a blackberry lavender that’s out of this world. You should give it a try!

        • Amber Pixie on August 12, 2019 at 10:40 pm

          Thank you Jeri! The lavender does sound like a great addition to blackberry…I’ve been leery of brewing with lavender because it can be soooo strong but that seems a nice blend. Cheers! 😀

  2. Big john on July 13, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Was wondering how long a time period from start to first drinking. This elderberry. Mead sounds so good, maybe with desserts.

    • Amber Shehan on July 27, 2015 at 9:29 am

      That varies for me between wines/batches…for this one, the batch was started in January 20, 2014, bottled on April 20, 2014, and the first bottle opened on August 9, 2014! I have one bottle left…

  3. […] it will definitely do something…but I don’t think it will ferment.  Maybe make herbal mead instead, and just call it morning dew? (I even double checked the Urban Dictionary for […]

  4. Julie on August 2, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    I was wondering if you can use fresh instead of dried elderberries?

  5. […] If you’ve decided to embrace your inner Beowulf this coming cold season, then there are some things you should know. If you’re going to serve your mead warm, and this is recommended as it allows the blend of honey and spices to be truly enhanced, you can do this several ways. If you’re drinking for one – or maybe you want to impress a certain somebody with a sweet and tasty nightcap – then simply poor the desired amount into a mug and warm in the microwave. It’s really that easy. With varieties ranging from (typically) 8%-20% alcohol content, they can pack a mighty punch during cold and flu season, so if you wince a little bit too much at the taste of whiskey, then mead is a perfect soothing winter tonic to kick those germs to the curb. For added medicinal oomph, try elderberry mead). […]

  6. Ned Newby on February 5, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Hi, I make muscadine wine using of the shelf bread yeast. Have you tried to make your mead or wines using bread yeast? I have people tell me that the wine is very good and ask for more. I double the sugar so it is a sweet wine. This year I added elderberries to the mix and it also turned out well.

    My process is a little different too. I don’t place the ingredients directly into the carboy. I start everything in a stainless pot covered with a towel for a week, stirring daily. Then in to the carboy with an airlock until it stops bubbling.

    I’ve never made mead before but do raise a few bees. Honey is like gold so I don’t want to waste it by ruining a batch of mead. I grow my own elderberries and have a big bag in the freezer. I have been kicking around the idea of making some mead with elderberries and then I found your article.

    • Amber Shehan on February 5, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Hey there, Ned! Thanks for commenting!

      I have used bread yeast, sometimes I use wild yeast, and other times I’ll spring for the fancy stuff when I can. 🙂 I have made muscadine wine with Welch’s frozen grape juice concentrate, but the sweetness got all eaten up by the yeast. I added sugar syrup to every bottle I opened before drinking!

      Sometimes I use the open bucket method like you describe, too…but only when I’m wild-fermenting or using fresh fruit or big chunks of stuff that I plan to strain out before it goes in the carboy.

      I haven’t yet started raising bees, but I’m excited to! I’ve taken a lot of courses with the local beekeepers association.

      I hope you do try this mead and it works out for you! Let me know how it goes! 😀

      • Ned Newby on February 8, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        It is on the top of my list of things to do.

        A little off topic but since you mentioned wanting to start raising bees, this is one of the most helpful sites I have found. http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm I also bought his book because sometimes I just want a reference when I’m not online.

  7. Foraging for Elderberries on July 10, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    […] One Gallon of Elderberry Mead from Pixie’s Pocket […]

  8. Debra on November 9, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Just a cautionary note; I’ve made elderberry wine with spices and it turned out more like a very strong liqueur. A little cinnamon goes a LONG way. Maybe a half cinnamon stick (2 inches) when you boil the ginger and then remove it. Just a thought.

  9. Ben on August 18, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Have you tried stopping the fermentation early? the airlock should bubble quickly for the first week (give or take), then start to slow down, if you stop fermentation at this point and siphon it into a new container to settle it will keep some of the original sweetness and honey flavour.

    • Amber Shehan on August 18, 2017 at 9:10 am

      I have read about and tasted meads that have been stopped as you describe, but I haven’t used that method myself. I have a sulfite sensitivity that can trigger migraines, so I avoid those. Do you know of a fermentation stopper that isn’t a sulfite? I’d be willing to try!

  10. Brian Vandersalll on September 8, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Amber, love your site and your recipes. I have brewed your dandelion mead and it turned it out great! I currently have an elderberry wine and an elderberry mead going as well. Its interesting that the mead is much more alcoholic than the wine. Though the wine’s taste is right there and i love it as is.

    When you are nearing the end of the ferment do you use Potassium Sorbate or Potassium Metabisulfate before you bottle? If so do you have specific quantities for 1 gallon batches?

    Thanks so much!

    • Amber Pixie on September 26, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      I’m so sorry for the delay in response, Brian! I’ve been underwater trying to finish up my first book and I missed your comment entirely!

      I don’t use potassium sorbate or metabisulfate, as I prefer to avoid preservatives. I’m sensitive to sulfate/sulfites and so I just let the fermentation finish completely on its own. If you’re worried about “bottle bombs” then you can bottle it dry and sweeten a bottle after you open it to enjoy!

      I hope that helps, and Cheers!!

  11. Jo Spruill on August 25, 2019 at 10:10 am

    My son will be trying this with a few changes due to his likes. I will let you know how it turns out for him.

    • Amber Pixie on September 3, 2019 at 11:44 pm

      Please do! I hope it all goes well! Cheers! 🙂

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.