By Alex Bradley
Some say that elderberry syrup is a great wintertime natural remedy that helps to prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms. Whilst the health benefits may not be guaranteed, it is totally delicious and the foraging is fun too.
Freshly picked elderberries from the Elder tree
Elderberries are picked from the Elder tree, the same tree that supplies us with beautifully aromatic elderflowers in spring, which we use to make cordial, champagne and more! Then in late summer/early autumn those flowers turn into black elderberries that look a little like blackcurrants and another delicious foraged food can be added to our winter store cupboard.
The most popular use of elderberries is a syrup (a thick cordial of sorts) that has been used for centuries as a health tonic for winter wellness. It is recommended that you take a spoonful a day - just as it is, mixed with hot or cold water, or even poured over porridge or yoghurt for breakfast, throughout the colder months of the year.
I can also verify that it is excellent in sparkling wine, a gin and tonic and a great addition to a mulled wine!
Elderberries are packed full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants and can help to reduce inflammation, as well as give your immune system a little boost. So here is our recipe for a simple homemade elderberry syrup, and a version with a little festive twist too!
Foraging for elderberries
At some point between late August and late September, elderberries should be at the perfect stage of ripeness for picking, depending on what part of the country you live in and what the weather has been like that year.
You want to pick berries that are deep purple, almost black - you don't want any that are a pale purple, red or green.
Once you have picked your berries you need to remove them from the stalks. A fairly tedious task, which I find is made easier by combing through the clusters using a fork (Little Mermaid style!) to pop them away from the stalks.
Removing elderberries from their stalks
Then you need to wash them, check through to remove any remaining stems and any rogue unripe berries. Now it's cooking time!
Washed elderberries for the final sort through
Easy elderberry syrup recipe
- 500g freshly picked elderberries*
- 350ml water
- 300g sugar
- Juice and rind of 1 lemon
1. Put the elderberries, lemon rind, water and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil.
2. Once the sugar has disolved simmer for half an hour or until the consistency has thickened to a syrup.
3. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
4. Place a muslin over a sieve and hold over a jug. Pour in the elderberry mixture and let it strain through the muslin. You can pick up the muslin and squeeze out the remaining juices.
5. Pour the elderberry syrup into sterilised bottles. This should make about half a litre.
6. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months (enough time to see you through cold and flu season!)
*You can use frozen elderberries instead or even dried elderberries (just use half the weight) if you would like to make a supply to keep you going all year round.
Straining the elderberry syrup - a messy business!
You can make the syrup even more potent by adding some chopped fresh ginger along with the lemon rind or for a festive twist (remember that mulled wine I mentioned?!) you can add a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a little freshly grated nutmeg and a star anise.
Elderberry syrup with a festive twist