Once a year we go collect elderberries (sambucus nigra) and make elderberry syrup, hopefully enough to do us until March or so. Today we went out after breakfast and collected a basketful, climbing trees and having fun in the process. At home the boys enjoyed taking the berries off the stems with their hands while mommy fed the baby. That is the bit of the job I dislike, so I was delighted they did it all this year.
These are the berries before washing. I've found the best way to wash and sort them is to immerse them in lots of water, swishing them around. The unripe ones (green and red) float to the surface and can be skimmed off easily (and thrown into pot plants for extra nutrients). Any stems are also removed as they're poisonous.
The washed and sorted elderberries with a few red flowering currants (ribes sanguineum) we found on our travels too.
I added them to a large saucepan with shavings of fresh ginger root, powdered cinnamon and organic honey and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Then I strain it through a metal sieve into mugs (no jars this year, threw them all out!) to freeze in small portions. Whenever a bug hits the household we defrost a portion and take it by the spoonful every morning.
The neat syrup, each boy got his own shot glass of it!
I added some granulated sugar to a glass of the syrup (as it isn't too sweet) and stirred it in, this makes a nice cordial, or can be added to hot water for a warming drink.
To think I used to throw the berries out! This year nothing is going to waste. I froze the leftover berries in batches to add to fruit crumbles and pies in winter.
Here's a glass of the cordial, cheers!
Beware, in North America there are some species of elderberry which are poisonous, please make sure you identify the correct one. Ireland only has the edible one.
This is nature's medicine at it's best, free and simple to prepare. I swear by it whenever we are sick, it boosts the immune system and tastes great. You can buy commercially prepared elderberry syrup if you can't get around to making your own. Are you tempted to go foraging?
Have a happy and healthy week,