Elderberry Syrup – A Winter Warrior
Elderflowers, which bloom on the shrubs before the berries form, make their first appearance in early springtime and will continue to bloom through July.
While partially dependent on climate and where you’re geographically situated, elderberries are typically ready to harvest from July through September.
The leaves are opposite, compound, and serrated across all species, a trait that is common across all species which makes elders fairly easy to identify. Elderflowers are a creamy white color and grow in clusters.
These clusters are large and flat (umbel shaped) and each cluster is made up of many tiny flowers. Each individual bloom has five petals and an abundance of yellow pollen on the stamen.
Black elderberries range in color from dark purple to black and grow in clusters on reddish stems.
Elderflowers make a fantastic cordial/liqueur and is the main ingredient in Saint Germaine.
There are many reported benefits of elderberries. Not only are they packed with antioxidants, but they also help address cold and flu symptoms, support heart health, and fight inflammation and infections, among other benefits.
- 4 cups of dried organic elderberries OR 8 cup fresh, ripe elderberries
- Raw ginger root
- Cloves, whole dried or ground powder
- Honey, 16-24 ounces (honey is best for immunity although you could sub with agave or maple syrup, or you can use sugar for a shelf stable syrup to use in cocktails in baking)
- Cinnamon, ground or sticks
- Optional: star anise
- Either cheese cloth or a nut milk bag to strain the berries
- Air-tight glass storage containers for the finished elderberry syrup
Dried berry variation: In a large pot or saucepan, combine 4 cups dried elderberries with 8 cups of water. Note the height of liquid in the pan.
Fresh berry variation: If you’re fortunate enough to have fresh elderberries available, use 8 cups of berries and just 1 cup of water. The juice in the berries will make up for the little amount of water added!
Turn the stove on a medium-low heat, enough to simmer the mixture but not boil. Once the mixture has begun to heat up, stir in:
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder OR 2 whole cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon of cloves (ground or whole)
2 heaping tablespoons of freshly grated raw ginger
Optional: 2-3 whole star anise
Simmer the berries until they’re soft and strain out the pulp. Return the liquid to the pan and continue to simmer until the original amount is reduced by about one-half.
Once the liquid reduces to about half of the original volume, it is time to squeeze and strain! (I use my grandmother’s potato masher to smash the warm berries while still in the pot) Allow the elderberry mixture to cool slightly before proceeding, but not totally. You don’t want to burn yourself here, but you do want to keep the liquid warm – to be able to dissolve the honey later.
To strain the elderberries, use a fine-mesh stainless steel strainer lined with either a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, set on top of a glass mixing bowl.
Pour strained liquid into a measuring cup and note it’s volume. Now add the juice back into your pot, but do not turn the heat back on.
It is time to add honey. Your juice is likely still a bit warm, so you should be able to stir in the honey without needing to heat anything further. Heating honey can destroy its beneficial properties. Using a whisk works really well!
Most recipes say to add an equal amount of honey to the volume you have in juice. Yes, that does seem like a ton of honey! While honey certainly has its own beneficial healing properties, it is particularly important in this recipe because the sugar content acts as a preservative for the syrup.
If you use the full amount of honey, the syrup will stay good for 3 months in the fridge! To extend the shelf-life even longer, some folks add a few glugs of liquor like vodka, whiskey, or brandy as an extra preservative. Half a cup of liquor for this size batch of elderberry syrup will do the job just fine.
Looking for other elderberry and elderflower recipes? Here are a few of my favorites: