Mom's old fashioned elderberry pie recipe is easy as pie to make. Sorry about the pun folks, but you'll love these awesome homemade fruit pies.
When I had been a boy, we were fortunate to have a clump of wild elderberry shrubs growing near the creek on our farm, and Mom used their purple-black ripened fruit to make beautiful homemade pies.
Sometimes Mom canned a jar or two of the elderberries so we could enjoy a special fruit pie around Christmas time. What a treat! Elderberry pie is one of my favorites, especially when served with a big scoopful of homemade vanilla ice cream. Perfection!
Our friend Louise is the current owner of our old farm property, and years later she enjoys harvesting those same elderberry shrubs for her pie making and preserving needs. She says they still bear delicious fruit every year.
Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (c. 1920s)
1 quart of ripe elderberries
1 cup of sugar
A little pastry flour
Wash and drain the berries. Stir sugar well into fruit and turn into a pie pan lined with crust. Sprinkle a little flour over the filling to absorb juice, and cover with an upper crust.
Bake for 40 minutes (450°F for 15 minutes; 425°F for 25 minutes). Serve cold with a little sugar sifted over top.
Wash selected elderberries in cold water and drain in colander. Pack the berries in sterilized jars.
Fill with hot syrup (1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water). Steam until tender with jar tops loosely covered. Fill jars with boiling syrup, apply rubber rings, and seal.
Cover equal quantities of elderberries and cut crabapples with water and cook until entirely soft. Mash so that fruit is thoroughly broken up. Strain the juice through a jelly bag.
Boil juice 10 to 20 minutes and test for pectin. Add 3/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of juice and allow to boil gently for 8 to 10 minutes.
Place juice in sterile glasses and let stand until cold. Cover and seal with paraffin.
My wife and I live nearby the old farm where I was raised, and alongside the creek flowing next to our house (above), we have a wild elderberry bush or two which we make use of in season.
We've also seen people driving on
country roads looking for elderberry bushes growing along the roadside ditches. Nature's bounty!
The common North American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is an easy shrub to spot, once you become familiar with its leafy appearance and clusters of purple fruit.
The fruit is fully ripe by mid-to-late summer. You need to pick elderberries quickly, though, before the birds beat you to it. The cluster pictured above has already been harvested by wild birds.
While it is possible to grow wild elderberries at home in your garden, they can be difficult to transplant, and they need sufficient moisture to grow.
However, if it's early in the spring and you're looking for plants or cuttings to transplant, you'll find elderberry shrubs growing wild throughout moderate areas of the USA, Canada, and some parts of Europe, often near creeks, roadsides, and areas of moist soil.
Garden varieties of elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) can be purchased from garden centers and mail order seed houses. Varieties closely resemble one another though some might prove more hardy for your growing region.
The following photo illustrates the various stages from white flowers, to green ripening fruit, to clusters of ripened purple and black berries perfect for an elderberry pie recipe.
My wife chose to plant two popular varieties of elders in our Central Ontario garden, "Adams" and "Bob Gordon," and she has had excellent results with an abundance of juicy fruit.
Early spring after frost is the recommended time for planting. An excellent Fact Sheet on Elderberries for Home Gardens can be found on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food website.
Elderberries are rarely found for sale in farmer's markets and supermarkets since they are not a significant commercial crop, yet it is worth watching for them when they're in season.
Dried elderberries can be found at health food stores as an alternative, and they can be used in the old fashioned elderberry pie recipes in a pinch, though the fresher berries will always taste better.