As many of you may have noticed, this year, my love of foraging has evolved into a passion for herbalism and hedgerow medicine, after an inspiring workshop I attended back in spring. I’ve been busy harvesting various herbs and flowers over the last few months, including poppies, daisies, elder, hawthorn, cleavers and meadowsweet, to name a few. I’ve made tinctures, syrup, infusions, teas and dried herbs, harvested and stored for the winter. Possibly my favourite has been making elderberry syrup.
I love the taste of the elderberries much more than I do elderflowers, the latter is an acquired taste for some. Admittedly you will need to add some sweetener to elderberries for the flavour to come through. And I recently discovered that it’s always wise to cook elderberries first apparently. In this medicinal syrup, I’ve used muscavado as a sweetener, which you do need as the sugar preserves the berry juice, but other recipes I’ve noticed use honey or coconut sugar.
You can pick bunches of elderberries when they are ripe and black but still formed and shiny. The easiest way is to strip them from their stems using a fork. Some people freeze them for several hours so that the berries can be removed easier but I think this may take away from the nutritional value. If you have any white or yellow berries, be sure to remove these unripe berries from your harvest.
Benefits of elderberries
The syrup in this recipe is great for coughs, colds and flus but it has other immune system boosting properties too. Since our little girl started nursery two years ago, we’ve been inundated with back-to-back autumn, winter and spring bugs and colds, so this syrup is another attempt to keep us in check for the coming season. Children can also consume this syrup ‘elixir’, simply halve the daily dose.
How to make elderberry syrup
Place ripe elderberries into a large saucepan with half their volume of water.
Simmer and stir for twenty minutes. Allow to cool and then you can use a jelly bag or fruit press to get as much juice out of the berries.
Instead, I initially used a sieve and a fork to extract the juice and after I’d obtained a fair amount I then placed the berries into a piece of white muslin, which I’d washed on a high heat previously. I then literally, by hand, squeezed the berries in the muslin, over a bowl, to get as much juice out as possible.
Then measure out your juice. For every 500ml of juice, add 250g muscavado sugar, a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves and a few slices of lemon. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain and pour while hot, into sterilised bottles.
Dose: Take 1 tsp neat every few hours for colds and flu or use it as a cordial and add boiling water to taste for a hot drink. I’ve also read that you can simple take a teaspoon a day as a preventative measure too.
NB: I made my own labels with some old brown paper I had in the cupboard and sellotape.