Ferment This: No Sugar Added Elderberry Water Kefir

It’s elderberry foraging season! Ever since I discovered how easy it is to make immune-boosting (and delicious) elderberry syrup in the Instant Pot, it’s become my go-to method. And that syrup is the perfect addition to the probiotic goodness of water kefir!

Even before the pandemic, keeping our immune systems strong by eating whole foods, prebiotics, and probiotics was a focus of ours…but now it’s even more important. Fermented live food and drink like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, milk kefir, and water kefir are regulars in our diet. When an immune-strengthening superfood like elderberries is available for the picking, I’d be foolish to pass on the opportunity.

The bushes – popping up all over the farm – have once again produced a bumper crop of dark, ripe berries. Interestingly, some bushes (in different locations) have stems that turn red when the berries are ripe and others don’t.

I’ve picked what seems like tons of berries, and more ripen each day. I can’t use them all right now, so I wash them and freeze them for later. Elderberry syrup in winter? Sure!

After removing the berries from the stems, washing, and adding about 2 cups of them to the Instant Pot, I added lemon zest, a cinnamon stick, and 6 cups of water. The syrup cooked on Manual for 9 minutes, then was vented (Quick Release). Once vented, the liquid was strained and cooled in the fridge.

I chose not to sweeten the syrup until I used it. For the water kefir second ferment, I added 1/2 cup syrup to 1/2 gallon of water kefir (first ferment), along with a level micro-scoop of stevia powder, stirred to dissolve. After 24 hours, I strained the finished water kefir into bottles and chilled them.

Elderberry water kefir first ferment

The elderberry water kefir is tasty, cooling, and thirst quenching – just what I need during this hot and humid weather. And the elderberry syrup’s health benefits? An added – and appreciated – bonus!