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These tiny purple berries are picked from elder trees found in Europe, North America, and the western regions of Asia. According to horticultural science expert Dr. Alice B. Russell, raw elderberries are inedible because they contain trace amounts of alkaloid, a poison. Yet when the berries are cooked or dried, they are safe to eat and offer a unique and pleasant flavor. Elderberries are used to make jam, wine, drinks, pies, and vinegar. They are also sometimes steeped and used in teas. Furthermore, elderberries are high in Vitamin C and rich in other powerful immune-boosting anti-oxidants.
Wash ripe elderberries. Elderberries are best when they are a deep purple color, indicating that they are fully ripe. Be sure to clean them thoroughly.
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Remove the stems. After the berries have been cleaned, pick off any stalks. This is done by using two forks held together to gently pull off the tops of the stems from the berries, in a technique known as teasing.
Place the berries on an oven tray. Spread the berries over a baking tray, making sure that they are in a single layer, so that each individual berry will receive the same amount of oven heat.
Preheat the oven. Elderberries need to be cooked at a low temperature, so you will begin preheating your oven at 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keeping oven temperature at or below 115 degrees, place the tray of berries in the oven. Cooking times will vary, but generally your berries will be ready between seven and 14 minutes. Constantly monitor the berries to ensure that they do not become overcooked. They will be ready when they are dried to a similar state as a raisin, and not too crisp.
Keep in a cool place. Once the elderberries have been dried and removed from the oven to cool, seal them in jars. They are best if kept in a dark, cool place to preserve freshness. If not stored in these conditions, the elderberries are likely to grow mold. Be mindful to throw out any batches that do so.
It is possible to dry elderberries by setting them on a tray as described above and allowing them to sit for a couple of days on a warm windowsill. You can use a food dehydrator.
Because of variances in oven temperatures, it is best to dry your elderberries in small batches. Again, check them often, and keep the heat low to avoid over-cooking.