Elderberries can be frozen either before or after destemming, and freezing can even be a part of the destemming process itself, since the firmer, frozen berries can better withstand destemming manipulations. To freeze elderberries prior to destemming, lay cymes on a tray or wide bin and place in the freezer. Alternatively, fill a large, food-grade plastic bag approximately half full with cymes and place bag into freezer. Destemmed berries can be spread out on a cookie sheet as a single layer, then placed in the freezer. The Midwest Elderberry Cooperative freezes washed, destemmed berries in 5 gallon food-grade buckets by placing the buckets into a walk-in freezer.
The University of Vermont Extension guide, Growing Elderberries, recommends dehydrators – either home or commercial scale – for drying, along with attributes to look for in dehydrating equipment. In California’s hot, dry summer climate, many small and mid-scale farmers dry fruit on the farm, often using a simple set up of elevated racks made from metal screens placed outdoors in the sun. A future UC SAREP project will be creating educational materials on best practices for on-farm solar drying.
Resources on drying
Elderflowers on racks in drying room Photo: Carmel Berry Company
Elderflowers can be dried by laying the entire cyme on a large piece of butcher or parchment paper and placing in a warm, dry environment. Once dry, the flowers can be separated from the stems by gently rubbing them into a bowl or bucket. Discard any flowers that have browned. It is also important to remove any pieces of dried stem or leaves that may inadvertently fall into the final product, as these contain a naturally occurring toxin, cyanogenic glycoside, which can cause health issues if consumed.
Elderberries and flowers are used in an assortment of value-added products such as jams, syrups and cordials. Farmers can sell these processed products directly to consumers (for example at farmers markets) or to retail outlets. If considering value-added products, growers should understand the regulations pertaining to the type of product they wish to make, and factor in costs of production.
Farmer perspectives on making value-added products, and the role of elderberry on a diversified farm
Resources for making value-added products
- CA Processed Food Registration
Working with a Co-Packer
Growers who see a market for value-added products but do not wish to make the product themselves can contract with a co-packer, who will handle the processing and regulatory compliance.
Merrilee Olson of Preserve Farm Kitchens discusses considerations for working with a co-packer at 23m 45s of the Understanding Opportunities for Elderberry Sales webinar