Elderberry syrup can be made purely for its great taste or for its vitamin content and medicinal properties in helping the whole family to fight off colds and flu.
Pick your elderberries from bushes that have not been sprayed with pesticides or polluted by passing cars. They will be ripe in from August to October (depending how far north you are!).
Sort your elderberries out, removing sticks and any spoiled ones. A useful trick is to run a spray through a fork in your hand to speed up the process. Don’t worry if you miss a few as they are not harmful just a bit bitter. Rinse the berries in a colander and put in a large saucepan. Cover with water to about 2 cm above the berries. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Roughly mash the berries with a potato masher to release all the juice. Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so.
Strain through a jelly bag (or piece of muslin) and measure the juice. (Keep the unwanted berry pulp or ‘must’ for vinegar). Then follow either method below:
For each litre of juice add 250g of sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for three minutes. Pour into sterilised bottles, cap and leave to cool. As the bottles cool the syrup will shrink, forming a vacuum. The bottles can be kept in a cool dark place until opened, then they must be refrigerated.
Warm the juice again and for every two cups of juice, add one cup of honey. Stir and bottle. This type of syrup must be kept in the fridge so is best made in small batches.
For either method, take 1 dessert spoon (10 ml) a day during the cold and flu season to keep immunity high. 3-4 teaspoons (15-20 ml) a day if there are bugs around. If you do succumb to an infection take 1 teaspoon of elderberry extract once an hour on the first day, then 3 x per day.
Use elderberry extract at the first sign of viral infection. Elderberry has been tested in clinical trials and has been proven in these trials to reduce the severity of symptoms and to shorten the time affected by the flu, on average by around a third. Elderberry is a native British hedgerow plant that has proven antiviral properties. Click here for more info!
Don’t forget that elderberry extract can be diluted with plain or sparkling water to make a refreshing drink. You can also add boiling water ( and a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg) to make a warming winter drink!
Any left over elderberry juice can also be pasteurised and used later for drinking or cooking.