Fermented Elderberry Oxymel

I have been picking wild elderberries and making elderberry syrup for our family for years. Proven to combat the influenza, this all-natural powerhouse of antioxidants is a staple in my medicine chest. Read more for instructions that will take your elderberry syrup up a notch.

Oxymel is a traditional medicinal preparation of three simple things: herbs, honey and vinegar.  Raw honey has antibacterial and anti-allergenic properties, and live raw vinegar has probiotic properties.  This particular preparation also incorporates raw fermented elderberry juice.  The juice ferments into alcohol, but when raw cider vinegar is added the alcohol is converted to elderberry vinegar, giving this oxymel a unique, fruity tang.

Proportions of herb to honey to vinegar vary in traditional preparations, and are largely based around personal taste.  Would you like your oxymel to be more of a vinegar-based tonic, taken in small shots?  Or are you going for a honey-based syrup taken by the spoonful?  This recipe uses equal parts fermented elderberry juice,  vinegar and honey, resulting in an oxymel that is quite sweet, almost syrup-y. It still has a strong vinegar tang, along with the balancing presence of the elderberry.

How to Make Fermented Elderberry Oxymel

Step 1: Fermenting the Elderberry

Elderberries are high in sugar and have a natural bloom of yeast on the outside.  If the berries are not grown at home, be sure they come from an un-sprayed source.  If juiced raw, they will quickly begin to ferment on their own.  They can be juiced raw using a home juicer, kitchen aid food strainer, chinois sieve or small fruit press.  Some people have a reaction to raw elderberry juice. If that concerns you, be on the safe side and juice by slow cooking the berries in a small amount of water until they pop, and then straining through cheesecloth.  If you do cook your elderberries to juice them, keep in mind you’ll need to add yeast to get the ferment started.

However you obtain your juice, place it in a Mason jar with the Fermentools airlock and lid in place and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight for three days to two weeks.

Step 2: Adding Raw Vinegar

Remove the airlock and add raw cider vinegar.  At this point, the jar needs to be left open but loosely covered with a cloth to allow the alcohol to be consumed by the vinegar culture.  Leave at room temperature for three days to two weeks.  For a perfect ratio, add the same amount of vinegar as the juice you started with.  For example, if you started with one cup of elderberry juice, add one cup of vinegar.

Step 3: Add Raw Honey

The oxymel is finished by the addition of raw honey.  In our case, we had unfiltered, unheated home-harvested honey which also has the added benefit of residual bee pollen.   Again, you’re aiming for a 1:1:1 ratio, so add the same amount of honey as juice and vinegar.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Stir well and allow your mixture to marry in the fridge for at least a week.  Keep in mind that vinegar will react with the band on a traditional Mason jar lid. I’d suggest using a plastic “freezer safe” Mason jar lid to prevent this reaction.  Test your oxymel and adjust it to your taste by either adding additional raw vinegar to cut the sweetness or additional honey to cut the vinegar tang.

Store in the refrigerator for three to six months. It is a wonderful herbal to use during the flu season.


Don’t have Fermentools, with lid and airlock? Not a problem. Visit the Fermentools store for all you need to ferment your own elderberry oxymel and more.


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