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Exotic Wild Berry Sauce Recipe

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."

Berry sauce with panna cotta and fresh blueberries

Berry sauce with panna cotta and fresh blueberries

Berry Sauce or Berry Coulis

One suffocating July weekend, my parents took us on an outing. My father drove his ancient pickup truck down a winding gravel path that took us far from the comfort of the suburbs. We followed a bubbling brook for several miles when suddenly elderberry bushes burst into view, laden with shiny, purple-black fruit. Hours later, we returned home weary, berry-stained and loaded down with boxes full of elderberry stems, leaves and fruit.

After carefully removing berries from stems, grandfather and mother went to work in the kitchen. That summer, we ate the berries every way imaginable: elderberry jelly, elderberry cobbler, elderberry sauce. My grandmother's elderberry cordial was unforgettable. I only know this because of my frequent covert missions to the pantry, where I sipped the fruity syrup straight from the bottle.

Little did I know that the syrup was an old-time remedy for everything under the sun, including the common cold and flu. Family lore has it that the sweet syrup even cured my brother's asthma.

This sauce is my tribute to the memory of my grandfather and his wild berry creations. It can be elaborated with any wild berry, including huckleberry or mulberry, or you can use commercially cultivated berries such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. This sauce is a wonderful partner for seared elk tenderloins and is unforgettable drizzled over panna cotta, plain yogurt, vanilla ice cream, pancakes or cheesecake. Mix it with cream cheese and smear it onto bagels and English muffins, or stir a tablespoon of sauce into tangy limeade. Enjoy! So let's get started.

Berry Picking Precautions

  • Be sure to correctly identify edible berries before picking.
  • Only pick fully ripened berries.
  • Raw or unripe elderberries are toxic, as are elderberry stems and leaves.
  • Remove elderberries from stems by raking them off with a fork.


Exotic Wild Berry Sauce Recipe

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

20 min

25 min

1 - 1/2 cups of berry sauce


  • 2 cups elderberries, huckleberries or mulberries, or try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or combination
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Pour berries, sugar, lemon juice and salt into a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer until berries begin to burst.
  3. Using a hand masher or immersion blender, break up the berries. If using wild berries, be careful not to crush the bitter seeds.
  4. If using wild berries, we recommend straining the sauce since wild berries are often full of bitter seeds. Discard solids and return the strained sauce to the saucepan.
  5. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Cool and refrigerate in a glass jar or other storage container. Sauce will keep for several weeks.

What Are Elderberries?

Elderberry can refer to any of 30 shrubs in the Adoxaceae family, although Sambucus nigra, commonly seen in Europe and North America, is the most well-known of the species. Berries range in color from black to dark purple to bright red.

Elderberries and elderflowers have been used in folk remedies for centuries as a cure for the common cold and flu, including influenzas such as Avian and H1N1. Elderberries are said to lower harmful cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system and offer antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

Wild Berries and a Healthy Diet

"Eat five to eight helpings of fruit and vegetables a day, but include berries three to four times a week," says Dr. Gary Stoner, Director of the Laboratory of Cancer Chemo Prevention and Etiology at Ohio State University.

Berries contain an abundance of phytochemicals, including anthocyanins, one of the most important of the phytochemicals. While it's true that berries are 90 percent water, the powerfully colorful juice capable of staining both clothing and hands is chock full of antioxidants and disease-fighting chemicals. The darker colored the berry, the higher the level of anthocyanins.

Best of all, wild berries are often free! Just make sure to correctly identify the berry and confirm it is safe for human consumption. Elderberry syrup is a well-known folk remedy which boosts the immune system and fights the common cold and flu. Anti-bacterial and anti-viral, it's safe even for children. Why not try some today?



What Are Huckleberries?

Huckleberry may refer to any variety of fruit-bearing shrub in the Ericaceae family. The fruit is small and round, similar in appearance to a blueberry, and ranges in color from scarlet red to deep purple. Also called bilberry, the fruit is generally seedy, sweet and delicious in jams, pies, cobblers and other baked goods.

In North America, huckleberries were a traditional part of the Crow tribe's diet. Since the plants grow slowly in acidic soil and must be handpicked, they are not produced commercially. They do flourish in the wild, though, so why not pick a basketful of huckleberries and whip up your own wild berry sauce?

Berries ripen in mid to late summer, but be aware they are also a favorite of brown, black and grizzly bears. Avoid picking berries in the early morning or early evening hours when bears are busy foraging and fattening up for a long stint of hibernation.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.