Tag: elderberry

Easter Banquet featuring Venison in Elderberry and Hawthorn

To those of you who imagine that a forager’s fare is stark or unexciting, then think again. A fortuitous gift of venison (I love living in the country) turned Easter Sunday into a culinary delight! In this case, rustling up lunch at short notice, I also ‘foraged’ in the garden to combine some veg with plants found in the ditches and woodland.

~~ o ~~

A Foragers Traditional Sunday Lunch Menu

Venison Medallions in Elderberry and Hawthorn Gin Sauce

Sorrel and Wild Garlic Mash

Steamed Ground Elder

Wild Spring Salad with Elderberry Vinegar

~~ o ~~

1 loin of Roe deer contributed by your neighbour’s brother now that the shooting season is open
A pan of potatoes dug up from last year’s potato patch that survived the blight
A handful of early tangy Sorrel leaves
A handful of Wild Garlic from any river bank
A pan full of Ground Elder (it shrinks when steamed)
1/4 litre of last year’s pasteurised Elderberry juice
A good glug of my Vintage Hawthorn Berry Gin

Dried seaweed, salt and pepper, ground hogweed seed and possibly some other mysterious things foraged from the dark and wild recesses of the kitchen cupboard

For the salad:
Lambs lettuce, Chickweed, Dandelion leaf, Watercress (taken from the bank not the stream bed), Wild Garlic, Wild Mint, Hairy Bittercress

For the dressing:
Olive oil, Elderberry ‘balsamic’ vinegar

Set your potatoes to boil when you start preparing the meat.

Slice the venison loin into 1 cm thick medallions and slowly pan-fry them in olive until just done. Venison is best cooked through and not left too pink or bloody. Toward the end of the cooking add the elderberry juice and a generous amount of the spice mix. When the venison are cooked remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep them gently warm in the oven in a flat baking dish. (I have a neat Le Creuset one that I foraged from an abandoned caravan!) Reduce the elderberry juice by bubbling away until it thickens and just starts to caramelise, and then add a glug of hawthorn gin.

Drain and mash the potatoes being liberal with ground dried seaweed, salt and pepper, butter and milk until it reaches a smooth creamy consistency. Then add finely chopped sorrel leaves, chopped wild garlic and stir in until the mash is well flecked with green.

Lastly roughly chop and steam your ground elder just like spinach. Drain well, squeezing out the water, toss to loosen and season with butter and salt.

Toss your lightly shredded salad ingredients into a big bowl and sprinkle with equal amounts of olive oil and elderberry vinegar.

Make a ‘Easter egg nest’ of the mash and place a few medallions inside, pour over the sauce. Nestle the ground elder around the side and serve the salad in side bowls.

This was so delicious it elicited plenty of mm’s, aah’s and other good food noises and the diners forgot to suspiciously ask what was in it until they’d eaten it all! So enjoyed by Geza, Jim, Norrie and myself that no one took a photo. Sorry!!

Cost in a restaurant? £15 to £20 upwards. My shopping bill? £0 Actual cost? Probably no more than a pint of milk.

Below is a photo of a similar dish, this one featuring fried hogweed.


Crème de Sureau (Crème de Cassis mais avec Elderberry!)

I love Crème de Cassis, the traditional French liqueur made from blackcurrants. You can dilute it with fizzy water to make a drink, add it to cocktails such as the classic Kir, pour it over desserts, etc. and it always evokes the warm, heady days of Summer. It occurred to me to make it from elderberries, and here is the recipe for a great twist on an old classic. As sureau is French for elder, I’ve named this delicious liqueuer, Crème de Sureau.

800 grams of ripe black elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
70 cl bottle of red wine
1 kilo white sugar (quantity adjusts see below)
600 ml brandy (quantity adjusts see below)

Destalk (roughly), wash and mash the elderberries with a potato masker in a large glass bowl. Add the wine, mix it up, cover and leave for two or three days stirring once or twice a day.

Strain it through a muslin or nylon cloth into a large pan. This will stain the cloth so don’t use your best net curtains!

Measure the amount of liquid you have, and add an equal quantity of sugar by volume. (So for each ml of juice, add a gram of sugar.)

Now put these back in the saucepan and heat over a low setting, stirring all the time. DO NOT let the mixture simmer or boil, or you will boil away the alcohol!

Once the sugar has dissolved, keep on the lowest heat setting for an hour or two with the pan lid off. Stir now and then. It is ready when the liquid has evaporated enough to turn into a light syrup. Take it off the heat. (If you’re impatient you can speed this part up by boiling for 20 minutes but you will loose some of the alcohol!)

Once cool, measure the amount of liquid you have again. Now stir in 1 part of brandy for every 3 parts of elderberry liquid.

Decant into clean, dry bottles. You won’t need to sterilise them as the alcohol will act as the preservative – although sterilising is a good habit to get into! Store for a fortnight before using as a substitute for creme de cassis.

Elderberry Cocktail Recipes

Sureau Kir
1 part creme de sureau
4 parts of dry white wine
Also sometimes called a “blanc-cassis” or should we now say a “blanc-sureau”?

Sureau Kir Royal
1 part creme de sureau
4 parts champagne

Sureau Kir Cardinal or Communard
1 part creme de sureau
4 parts red wine

Sureau Kir Medocain
1 part creme de sureau
4 parts rosé wine

Sureau Kir Breton
1 part creme de sureau
4 parts cider

Pasteurising Elderberry, Nettle, Cleavers and other juices

How do you make sure you have a year round supply of your favourite herbal power shots and wild juices? Pasteurising is the best way to ensure you can keep them without buying a second fridge, although they must be refrigerated once opened. If like me you love the sight of larder shelves groaning with bottles and jars, labeled with mysterious handwritten labels, then pasteurising your own juices is definitely for you!

Pasteurised fruit and herb juices can be made by heating the extracted, filtered juice and then hot-filling it into sterilised bottles. This method works perfectly well and is a lot easier to do in a domestic kitchen than heating or baking the already filled bottles! Ironically, I have found that elderberry juice pasteurises itself when the juice is extracted by boiling to make elderberry syrup. This makes a really rich juice that is excellent for cooking.

Heat the juice in a stainless steel pan* to 80-95 degrees C for 1 to 10 minutes. The exact time can vary according to the fruit. I prefer using a lower heat as I think that this preserves more of the beneficial properties of the juices. The length of time depends on the size of bottle that you are then going to fill. As a rule of thumb – and this has worked for all the wild juices I have tried – allow:

10 minutes at 80 degrees when filling 0.33 cl bottles (330 ml)

15 minutes at 80 degrees when filling 0.50 cl bottles (500 ml)

20 minutes at 80 degrees when filling 0.75 cl bottles (750 ml)

Check your temperature with a cooking thermometer and make sure you sterilise your bottles. It’s that simple!

If you do decide to go into small scale production, drill a hole in a stainless steel bucket and attach a tap (or two) to make a very effective bottle filler.

* A stainless steel saucepan is best as the fruit acidity reacts with aluminium. Although leaf juices are not so fussy it is best to avoid using aluminium as there is early evidence that aluminium contamination can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers.

Elderberry: Making a Syrup

Elderberry01-webElderberry 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.

Swine Flu, Herbal Remedies & Elderberry Extract

I find it amazing that with all the worry about swine flu at the moment, and the amount of press coverage given to it, that so little mention has been made of herbal remedies. Herbal remedies can help to:

  • boost the immune system and lower the chances of catching flu
  • decrease the severity of symptoms
  • lessen the length of time that symptoms are experienced

I know much of the silence at the moment is political. Many Medical Herbalists are currently feeling overwhelmed by the dawning impact of the new legislative changes and also by vociferous attacks against herbal medicine by some journalists and contributors. Few Medical Herbalists have the time to take on the job of defending themselves in the national press, after all most of them are running busy clinics, seeing patients and running businesses in challenging economic times. And few have the connections in the media, nor the training in debate and public relations, to defend the profession well.

The abilities of Medical Herbalists lie in the professional service that they offer to patients who seek alternative ways of managing their health. In particular, those with chronic health conditions where a string of 6 minute appointments with an NHS GP, and a long wait for a consultant appointment, have still not yielded an alternative to the prospect of years of management with prescription drugs. This is not an attack on GPs or the NHS by any means, but many health conditions now require long term management (for example; asthma, eczema, hormonal imbalances, irritable bowel, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive problems and stress related conditions). Understandably, many people prefer to seek out a gentler system that a drug-dependent one.

However, despite the silence in the national press it is important to know that there are options. So back to swine flu! Firstly, the common sense:

  • Avoid contact with people who obviously have symptoms – coughs, colds, sniffles.
  • Wash your hands frequently and use paper tissues.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet with your ‘Five a Day’ intake of fruits and vegetables. If your body is not properly nourished it will be less able to fight an infection. If you are not properly nourished you may also be low on vitamins (particularly if you smoke – which kills Vitamin C, drink a lot of alcohol, or are stressed).
  • Get sufficient sleep and exercise, keeping the body in optimum condition.

To support your immune system to lessen the chances of catching an infection, consider the following:

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements. Look for combinations with minerals that help you to absorb the vitamins. High doses of Vitamin C do work. At the onset of a cold, 1000 mg daily doses will help. Your body needs zinc to absorb it though.
  • Modify your diet to a medicinal diet. Add plenty of garlic, sage and lemon for example, herbs that are either antiviral or naturally full of Vitamin C.
  • Elderberry extract

Elderberry Extract


Elderberries picked in October

At the first sign of infection use elderberry extract. 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 antiviral properties.

At Napiers we use combinations: Echinacea and Elderflower Compound and we also produce an Organic Echinacea and Elderberry Throat Spray. These are both now prescription only since the advent of the THMPD regulations. The latter is particularly handy for first line defence as the bottle is easy to carry around in handbags, rucksacks or briefcases to be sprayed into the mouth as soon as people around you start coughing and spluttering.

We also use Elderflowers in an old Rickard Lane’s licence originally called Peppermint and Elderflowers with Composition Essence. It’s license indication is as a traditional herbal remedy for the relief of the symptoms of colds, chills and influenza. Elderberry extract is also made by other companies such as Sambucol.

Each year I make as much elderberry extract as I can from the berries I can get my hands on. This autumn I have also been making combination batches of elderberries and rosehips to maximise the Vitamin C and the antiviral properties. In the office several of us have been hit by swine flu – we haven’t been tested so assume it was that, and if not it was another very nasty flu virus. Those of us who got it and immediately started high doses of elderberry did indeed get over it much quicker and with less painful symptoms than those who didn’t. Echinacea is the classic herbal immune system booster but with influenza, elderberry really is my ‘drug of choice’. If you can’t make your own, use a combination remedy from Napiers or use Sambucol or another elderberry extract.

For those of you interested in the clinical evidence, here goes:

Link to the US National Library of Medicine

Link to Herbal Science Group

Monica Wilde
Research Herbalist
October 2009


  1. Barak V, Birkenfeld S, Halperin T, et al. The effect of herbal remedies on the production of human inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Isr Med Assoc J 2002;4(11 Suppl):919-922.
  2. Bitsch I, Janssen M, Netzel M, et al. Bioavailability of anthocyanidin-3-glycosides following consumption of elderberry extract and blackcurrant juice. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 2004;42(5):293-300.
  3. Ernst E, Marz RW, Sieder C. [Acute bronchitis: effectiveness of Sinupret. Comparative study with common expectorants in 3,187 patients]. Fortschr Med 4-20-1997;115(11):52-53.
  4. Forster-Waldl E, Marchetti M, Scholl I, et al. Type I allergy to elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is elicited by a 33.2 kDa allergen with significant homology to ribosomal inactivating proteins. Clin Exp Allergy 2003;33(12):1703-1710.
  5. Guo CT, Takahashi N, Yagi H, et al. The quail and chicken intestine have sialyl-galactose sugar chains responsible for the binding of influenza A viruses to human type receptors. Glycobiology 2007 Jul;17(7):713-24.
  6. Gray AM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Flatt PR. The traditional plant treatment, Sambucus nigra (elder), exhibits insulin-like and insulin-releasing actions in vitro. J Nutr 2000;130(1):15-20.
  7. Hassid S, Choufani G, Nagy N, et al. Quantitative glycohistochemical characterization of normal nasal mucosa, and of single as opposed to massive nasal polyps. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 1999;108(8):797-805.
  8. Jaber R. Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma. Prim.Care 2002;29(2):231-261.
  9. Konlee M. A new triple combination therapy. Posit Health News 1998;(No 17):12-14.
  10. Milbury PE, Cao G, Prior RL, et al. Bioavailablility of elderberry anthocyanins. Mech Ageing Dev. 4-30-2002;123(8):997-1006.
  11. Neubauer N, März RW. Placebo-controlled, randomized double-blind clinical trial with Sinupret® sugar coated tablets on the basis of a therapy with antibiotics and decongestant nasal drops in acute sinusitis. Phytomedicine 1994;1:177-181.
  12. Richstein A, Mann W. [Treatment of chronic sinusitis with Sinupret]. Ther Ggw 1980;119(9):1055-1060.
  13. Roy S, Khanna S, Alessio HM, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berries. Free Radic Res. 2002;36(9):1023-1031.
  14. Wu X, Cao G, Prior RL. Absorption and metabolism of anthocyanins in elderly women after consumption of elderberry or blueberry. J.Nutr 2002;132(7):1865-1871.
  15. Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32(2):132-140.