Happy Winter Solstice! The countdown to Christmas, or Yule has begun in earnest. I like to gift my close neighbors with something I have made during the holidays. Some years I give munchie food gifts such as spiced, glazed nuts or cookies, but as I was pondering what I had on hand I remembered I still had Elderberries in the freezer, bail wire bottles and several Elderberry booklets I had ordered for them last fall. If you have dried Elderberries in your pantry, or branches in your freezer, please read on. There is still time!
Dried Elderberries make a great syrup, and require less equipment. I use dried berries and the following ingredients ratio from Tina at The Essential Herbal when I make dried berry syrup.
Syrup From Dried Elderberries:
1 cup dried Elderberries
3 cups distilled water
1 1/2 cup Honey (approximate) OR twice as much granulated sugar as there is liquid
Place dried berries and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Cool, then pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing firmly with large spoon to extract as much juice as possible. More liquid can be strained from the berry mash by placing it in a clean towel, old t-shirt or cheesecloth and giving it a good squeeze.
If using honey: Return the juice to the saucepan and simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Cool slightly, and stir in honey.
If using granulated sugar:
Measure the remaining liquid, and stir in twice as much sugar as there is liquid. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 3-5 minutes.
Refrigerate the Elderberry syrup, or, freeze the extracted juice and make the syrup later!
If you love Elderberries like I do, consider ordering A Gathering Of Elders from The Essential Herbal online. It is a wonderful little booklet and my favorite go-to for every imaginable Elderberry recipe and folklore.
Today we are making Elderberry Syrup from frozen native western Mexicana Blue Elderberries we gathered last fall. Any of the blue or black Elderberries are edible when cooked. (There is an Elder variety with red berries, but they are toxic. Leave them be!)
Our native Elderberries have a thin white coating on them, similar to grape must, which disappears with advanced ripening or water. They are a deep blue-black color under the coating. I make fresh syrup every fall, and inevitably there are a couple bags more than I need, so, I throw them in the freezer, branches and all. My fresh Elderberry syrup recipe also originated from An Elder Gathering.
The berries are easier to remove from the stems when they are frozen. Some people use forks or cake combs, but I find they literally fall off the stems if I rub them between my thumb and forefinger. Submerge the berries in water, rinse them well, and drain them in a colander before placing them in a deep kettle. Add only about 1 cup of distilled water to the kettle of berries, because they are incredibly juicy and you don’t want to overly dilute their goodness. Bring the berries to a boil, mashing them with a potato masher now and then. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
You may notice a few tiny leaves or stems, or maybe a green berry or two in the first photo of the kettle. I pick as many as possible out of the kettle, when I see them, and don’t worry about the rest.
After boiling and simmering the kettle, remove the lid and allow the berries to cool to room temp. We use a food mill to separate the juice from the berries. If you don’t own a food mill, whatever you use for making applesauce will work fine. I used one of those old fashioned cone sieves for many years. Use a clean towel or an old t-shirt to squeeze the juice out, or press through a wire mesh strainer with a large spoon.
Next, strain or press the juice from the berries into a container with measuring marks. Add 2 cups of sugar to each cup of juice to the kettle. Stir to start dissolving the sugar, and let the kettle sit for about 10 minutes. You’ll notice that the color of the berries and juice in the kettle has changed to a beautiful purple or Burgundy color.
Bring the syrup with dissolved sugar to a boil, and boil for 3-5 minutes.
Using a funnel, fill sterilized bail-wire bottles with the syrup to within 1 inch from the top. Close the lids, and allow to cool.
Refrigerate and enjoy! Evidence suggests Elderberry syrup enhances your immune response to flu viruses and colds. Beyond that, it is great on ice cream and in teas. Even children love it. Stay healthy this winter!