Elderberry Syrup (11th hour gift!)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Happy Lughnasadh

Elderberries!

July was a hot blur of summer herb and garden crafts, canning and distillation.  Oh, and trying to keep up with crabgrass from outer space.  They have to be as they were three feet in diameter!

I know it is autumn at last,  because the Elderberries are finally ripe.  I’ll make syrup and hard candy lozenges from the berries as they help my family stay healthier.

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Distillation for Mosquito Repellent

 

The distillation above was lemon balm, elder leaf, clary sage, lavender, holy basil and peppermint.  It only produced a little bit of essential oil, which I added back in to the hydrosol.

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The bug spray seems to work rather well!  I added a few drops of Eucalyptus Citridora essential oil to the distillation. Scientific studies recently tested it in comparison to Deet and other leading bug sprays.  They found it as effective against mosquitoes as Deet.  We don’t normally even have a mosquito problem in our area, but this year they are a frequent annoyance.

 

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Crazy Patch Lavender Sachet

I recently planted a flag in one of our spare bedrooms and claimed it for my sewing room.   After years of collecting fat quarters or more of yardage I liked, I have a decent fabric stash, so I plan to dive into it to make coasters, sachets, dream pillows, etc., for upcoming holiday gifts. With just my husband and I at home now, I have discovered being an empty nester does have an advantage or two.

 

An unbelievably big Walla Walla Sweet Onion we grew!

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Homemade diaper balm is a lovely gift for new babies.  If you are familiar with salve making you can easily make it yourself.  It is made of gentle herb infused oil of Calendula, Chamomile, Plantain, Lavender and Rosa Rugosa.  I don’t add any essential oils of any kind, but the scent is of Rose petals, Chamomile and Lavender and bee’s wax.  I will happily share my recipe if anyone wants it!

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This is the first soap I ever made that contains all my own distilled essential oil and hydrosol, and Lavender bud I grew myself.  It smells incredible.  Now, to wait six weeks for it to cure!

 

White Sage and Floral smudge sticks
Sweet Basil

I am so thankful for all of our green friends.  They are adaptable and helpful, no matter what.  (even if you forget to weed around them!)  Calendula, Echinacea,  Hyssop, Horehound, Sage, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Catnip seem to be growing to a double beat this year.  I just made a second batch of Basil Pesto, and will hang further bundles to dry.  Next up, all kinds of peppers and canning.  What kind of harvest activities are you doing?