At this time of year the hedgerows are heaving with elderberries. Make your own Elderberry syrup to help protect you and your family from colds and flu. I like to take it daily by the spoon or I use it as a delicious topping to pancakes and desserts.
Foraging for elderberries
Start by picking as many elderberries as you can find. They often grow in large bushes around the edges of footpaths and fields. If you can, avoid picking them from the edges of busy roads because they pick up pollution from car exhausts. They are easily recognisable due to the fact that they look like little red umbrella shape branches with the berries at the ends.
I usually try to pick elderberries that I can see at or just above eye level. This is because any lower and they could have been peed on by a passing dog, or at traffic exhaust level. Most importantly I leave the highest elderberries for the birds to eat because this is their larder!
For my foraging walks I arm myself with a bag or basket and a small pair of scissors. Sometimes I even bring a small step up stool with me. Snip the sprigs off on the stalk just above the umbrella part of the sprig.
Rinse the elderberries
I like to aim for a decent large basin volume of elderberry sprigs. Next I use a fork to remove all of the berries from the sprigs into a large bowl.
You can do this by sliding the fork along the sprig from the stalk down to the berries, the tines of the fork do an excellent job of removing multiple berries at a time.
I often end up with purple hands at this stage! Consequently you might want to use gloves. Fill the bowl with water and leave the berries to soak.
Making the elderberries syrup
DRAIN. ADD SPICES. BOIL. SIMMER.
Now drain the elderberries and transfer them to a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover them – only just. At this stage you can add some lovely warm and fragrant spices to add to the flavour of your syrup. I like to add – some grated ginger, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves. Next, bring the elderberries to the boil and then turn down the heat to simmer the elderberries for 15 – 20 minutes.
I use a jay cloth or other clean cloth such as a muslin and line a sieve into a measuring jug. Now squeeze as much liquid through the cloth as possible with gloved hands. Alternatively use the back of a metal spoon to push it through.
ADD SUGAR AND LEMON JUICE. SIMMER.
You will need to add approximately 400g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid that you manage to collect in the measuring jug.
Next, clean the saucepan and then pour the sugar, strained elderberry liquid and lemon juice back in. Bring it up to the boil and gently simmer for about 10 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.
COOL and STERILISE JARS
Leave the syrup to cool completely before you add it to small bottles or jars.
Whilst the liquid is cooling, you could make sure you have some clean sterilised jars or bottles. I leave the jars open end towards the back of a low heat oven (gas mark 1 or lowest electricity setting). Instead you could run it through the dishwasher or use a baby sterilising fluid.
LABEL AND STORE
I label my bottles with stickers or sharpie marker pens. I like to put the date and ingredients on. You can store the syrup in the fridge or freeze it- perhaps in an ice cube tray for small portion sizes and ease of access.
Cinnamon stick, grated ginger, grated nutmeg, cloves ( all optional)
Lemon juice (of 1/2 – 1 lemon)
Instructions at a glance
I’ve included this very brief instructions list because personally I hate to follow a wordy recipe. The above instructions should be helpful on first reading, but after that the brief instructions below should be all you need.
- Boil with spices 15-20mins
- Add sugar and lemon juice
- Simmer 10 mins or until sugar has dissolved
- Sterilise jars
- Funnel syrup into the jars
Find out more about Elderberries, where to find them and their health benefits here on the Country file website.
For more ideas on recipes written by me. Check out my recipes page here