If you go down to the woods today… you might be lucky enough to find an elder tree dripping with deep dark red elderberries. Sorry to disappoint those with a penchant for picnics and teddy bears. But on the plus side you might not have to venture as far as the woods to find these treasures. There’s a lovely old elder tree right next to my suburban garden.
If I catch them at them earlier in the year I love to pick the elderflowers and make homemade elderflower cordial. I’d love to make elderflower champagne but I’m a bit worried about exploding bottles. I need to learn to live a little closer to the edge before I attempt it.
This year I missed out on the elderflowers so I was determined to get my hands on the berries.
Elderberries are absolutely chock a block with antioxidants, which give our immune systems a massive boost. So making a syrup now and digging into it over the autumn and winter months is a great way to help ward off colds and flu.
A word of caution with these berries – you really have to cook them or you might risk an upset tummy. When raw these little berries are obnoxiously sour so you’d probably want to cook them anyway – nature’s way of keeping us safe. Also make sure you discard the leaves and stalks as these can be toxic. A little vigilance is totally worth it for the sweet elixir you end up with.
This syrup is made with sugar but you could absolutely make it with honey, which would also cram in yet more healthy delights. I added a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a couple of cloves and the result is that the finished syrup is slightly reminiscent of cola. So when my youngest was under the weather a couple of days ago he slurped down his ‘medicine’ no questions asked. If you prefer, keep it simple and just go with the berries and sweet stuff.
You could use this as a cordial, drizzle over greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, add a dash to a cocktail or simply down a small shot when you feel your body needs a helping immune boosting hand.
Simple Elderberry Syrup
- 500g elderberries
- 400g sugar
- The juice of a lemon
- Optional flavour enhancers: a couple of slices of ginger and a couple of cloves
- First and foremost make sure you remove all of the stalks and leaves from the berries as these are toxic. Also discard any green berries.
- You can gently pull the berries off the stalks or use a fork. I really like the fork method, which also cuts down on the staining of your fingers.
- Give the berries a wash.
- Tip them into a pan and cover with water (the water should be about 1cm over the berries). Add your ginger and cloves if you are using them. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- Now strain through a sieve. Pour the liquid back into the pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Once cooled you can either bottle this and keep in the fridge or, to make it last even longer, freeze in ice cube trays.