Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To - Elderberry Syrup

        You may have heard of or seen elderberry syrup in health food stores, catalogs, or other places. It usually sells for about $25 per eight ounce, which is a pretty steep price if you ask me! Hey, I have good news for you - you can make it easily in your own kitchen! We do it each year; several times during elderberry season because we go through it so quickly during the year.

  • Fresh elderberries
  • Honey or maple syrup ( as the sweetener, you could use sugar as well)
  • Water
     The first thing to do is go find some elder trees growing remotely near your house. Take some large paper bags with you and pick the clumps of berries off. Here are a bunch of pictures I have taken over the years to help you identify this plant:

       You got it? As you might be able to see, they often grow on the sides of roads, which isn't the best location because of pollution. If you live in a relatively quiet area, though, this won't be a problem at all.

        When you get home from your berry picking excursion, you'll want to settle down and get the next step over with as quickly as possible. I usually put on a BBC miniseries and watch it at the kitchen table while I pick the berries off of the stems. Now, the stems are poisonous, so be sure you don't leave any of the large pieces in (the small stems that are directly connected to the berries are harmless. If there are some dried flowers still stuck to the berries, you don't have to worry about picking those off. You'll be straining the juice later.

         Put your berries into a large saucepan (or small, depending on how much berries you have). Add a small amount of water - perhaps enough to put an inch in the bottom of the pan. Cook the berries on medium-high heat until they're pretty soft, then puree the mixture with an immersion blender and cook some more. This is NOT an exact science, but you should have about 15 min of cooking time all together at this point. If you have more or less, guess what? It really doesn't matter.

         Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a bandana or something else like that. I usually leave this for a couple of hours.

         When all of the flowers and seeds and other stuff is strained out, pour the juice into a saucepan (you can just rinse out the one you were using before). You'll need to estimate or measure how much juice you have at this point, and then add 1/4 to 1/2 that amount on honey or maple syrup. If you are using sugar add 1/3 to 2/3. Heat it up to just before boiling, stirring to dissolve the sweetener. Taste it to see if it's sweet enough.

        When I'm making the syrup, altogether too much goes into the 'tasting bowl'. 

        We usually can some of ours and keep some in the fridge.

        So now that you have your delicious syrup, what do you do with it? Well, you can use it as pancake/waffle/french toast syrup, you can put it on hot cereal, in smoothies, milkshakes, yogurt - really anything you want! It's so tasty, and it's good for you! Eat it during flu season and you won't get sick; it's one of the most powerful anti-viral herbs. At the first symptom of flu, you can take one teaspoon every hour to prevent getting more sick, but you have to do it quickly. Don't wait! And in the meantime, just enjoy the lovely flavor of the syrup. For an extra spice, I like to add a bit of powdered ginger as well some batches.
        Let me know if you make some!


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