How to De-Stem Elderberries

Elderberries make delicious jams, jellies and pies. However, these berries are rather tricky to pick. They are so small. Elderberries grow in such a tight cluster. Meticulously picking them by hand can ensure that you don't have any stray stems, but it takes a lot longer than it's worth. These instructions will have you finished in no time.

Things You'll Need

  • Fork
  • Garden shears
  • Bag
  • Bucket
  • Apron
  • Cheesecloth
  • Straining spoon

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Hang the bucket or bag over your arm. Clip small clusters of elderberries into it using the shears with your other hand. Don't fill the bag or bucket too full at this point. You don't want to lose any of the juice yet.

Put on an apron. Cover your lap with a towel. Elderberry juice is very staining. Grip each cluster of berries by the top of the main stem over a bowl. Starting at the top of the cluster, use a fork to gently comb the berries off the stems.

As you comb, watch for stems that get pulled off. Remove them from the bowl. Set them aside to be redone, or you could opt to pull the berries off by hand.

Once all the berries are removed, submerge them in cold water. Any bugs that made it into the bowl will rise to the surface. Remove these by placing a cheese cloth firmly over the bowl. Drain the water.

Sift through the washed berries. Look for any remaining stems. Remove any that you find. Refrigerate any berries that you do not plan to use immediately.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you plan to use the berries themselves for a pie or jam, be extra diligent about watching for stems.
  • Do not eat elderberries before they are cooked. Elderberries contain small amounts of poisonous alkaloids and can cause nausea. Cooking destroys the alkaloids. Cooking makes the berries safe for eating.
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