Elderberry Syrup Recipe

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If you walk along hedgerows and the borders of fields this time of year you’re bound to come across Elderberries. These juicy black berries grow right across the northern hemisphere and have been used for generations as both food and medicine. They have a beautiful earthy taste that reminds me of tart raspberries and blackberries along with a little something else that I just can’t put my finger on. Trees are laden with fruit right now and though they’re an important food for wildlife there’s usually plenty for people to take some too.

Though the Elder tree (Sambucus) comes in various sub-species, the variety we have growing on the Isle of Man is the European Elder, also known as Sambucus nigra. Ripe berries from this tree can be used both cooked and fresh but if you’ve foraged berries from another variety then make sure to only use them in cooked preparations since they could be mildly toxic when raw.

Other parts of the world will no doubt be different but it’s been an amazing season for the Elder tree on the island. The warm sunshine we’ve had this year resulted in masses of flowers in June and those flowers have transformed into juicy berries over the summer. You can’t really find fresh elderberries in shops so this delicious wild food is a perfect excuse to slip on some wellies and plan a foraging expedition.

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

French Vanilla Ice Cream with Elderberry Syrup…a delicious and healing treat

With just a few hundred grams of berries you can make small batches of jam, wine, infused alcohol, and fruity desserts. However, the most versatile product you can make with your berries is Elderberry Syrup. Used in the kitchen it can be a gorgeous and unique topping for pancakes, ice cream, cakes and puddings. Elderberry has a second and perhaps even more important use since the sweet and rich liquid can also be used as a medicine. Preliminary studies have shown that ‘Sambucol’, a natural extract taken from Elderberries, appears to “short-circuit flu symptoms” by inactivating the flu virus. This just serves to validate what people have known for years since Elderberries feature heavily in folk medicine in both North America and Europe.

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

For flu and sore throats: fill half a tablespoon with Elderflower syrup and the top it up with raw honey

Most Elderberry Syrup ‘Medicine’ recipes you might find will instruct you to mix raw honey into the syrup in the cooling stage and to refrigerate the syrup until needed. Honey is another amazing natural medicine that is used in winter remedies to help soothe sore throats and fight infection. However the issue with making this all-in-one syrup is that it requires you to provide space in your fridge for the syrup and also greatly shortens the shelf-life of the product. It makes more sense to instead create a juicy syrup that can be preserved and stored in the pantry until required. Mix it with raw honey when needed and you have a syrup that can be used for medicine, for culinary uses, and (in its unopened state) has a shelf life of at least a year.

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

 

Elderberry Syrup
Makes approx. 800g
First Stage
335g berries (11.8 oz) (weight of berries after picking from stems)
1 cup water
Second Stage
454g (1 lb) white sugar
water – to bring the liquid up to two cups
Equipment needed
Clean, sterilised jars or bottles with lids Clear Glass Woozy Bottles, 12 Oz – Case of 12

 

The first part of this recipe is actually finding and picking your berries. I can’t think of anything you could confuse Elderberries with (in the UK) so it’s safe to say that you can forage for them without much fear of accidentally picking something dangerous.Look for clusters of bead-sized plump berries with reddish stems hanging on small to medium sized trees. The leaves of trees are pinnate with and odd number (usually five or seven) of leaves arranged opposite one another.

 

1. Pluck your berries from the stems using your fingers or a fork. Make sure to discard any green or unripe berries since they’ll taste bitter and may be slightly toxic – the same goes for the stems and leaves. Weigh your berries and adjust the recipe based on what you have. Optional: It’s said that you can intensify the flavour of your syrup by freezing the berries overnight.

2. Place your berries (fresh or frozen) into a pan with a cup of water and bring it to a simmer. Hold it there for around ten minutes and use a potato masher to press the berries to get as much juice out as possible.

3. Pour your berry mixture into a jelly bag and allow the liquid to drain into a bowl for at least a few hours but preferably overnight. If you don’t have a jelly bag then it’s easy to rig one up by placing a piece of muslin in a strainer/collander. After this time has passed, compost the berry mass left in the jelly bag and measure how much liquid you have. You’ll need two cups of juice so if it’s needed, add water to make up the difference.

4. Heat your oven to low and place your sterlised jars inside. You need to warm your jars before pouring the hot syrup inside or else the glass will crack. If you’d like to sterilise your jars at the same time as warming, put your oven to 130C / 265F and let the jars sit inside for thirty minutes. Lids can be sterilised by placing them in a heat proof container and pouring boiling water over them. Leave them in the water and dip them out when they’re needed.

5. Bring your two cups of juice up to a simmer and then add your sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then bring the syrup up to a rolling boil. Boil for five to ten minutes or until the liquid starts to feel a bit tacky when dribbled on a cold plate and allowed to cool. You’re not looking for a set like you would in making jam so if you bottle the liquid too soon you’ll just have a more liquidy syrup than if you boiled it a bit longer. Either way you’ll have delicious syrup.

6. Take your jars out of the oven and, using a funnel, pour the hot liquid inside leaving only a centimeter (half an inch) of space at the top. Any more air than that and your syrup may spoil. Fix your lids on tightly and set the jars on the counter to cool and seal. You’ll know they’ve done so when you hear them pop and when the lid doesn’t give/release when you press on the top. No further processing is necessary and your syrup will have a shelf-life of up to one year.

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries Recipe for Elderberry Syrup - can be used as a delicious dessert topping or as a natural anti-flu medicine #berries

 

 

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25 Discussion to this post

  1. CJ says:

    A great recipe Tanya. And very interesting to know about the health benefits of elderberries.

  2. I use Elderberries in my 8 fruit hedgerow jelly this year.
    I also made elderberry syrup and at stage 1 put into the pan, 2 cinnamon sticks,about 2" piece of ginger peeled and chopped fairly fine and 12 whole cloves, then went to stage 2 and let it strain gently.
    It is lovely in the same uses you mention. One of my favourite ways to use it is with slightly cooled boiled water and a slice of lemon quartered in it, deliscous and both refreshing ans soothing.

  3. I'm going to ask your advice here, Tanya. I made elderberry syrup a few weeks ago when it seemed the last of the berries were available. I used a recipe very similar to yours, sterilised my muslin and the bottles used, had a taste (oh so delicious!!) sealed the bottles with sterilised lids and a few days later found that the syrup/cordial had started to ferment! Fizzy on the tongue with a slight yeasty undertone. Not pleasant. I did toy with the idea that perhaps I could turn it into elderberry wine (if I knew how!) but, eventually, just ditched it. Have you ever had this happen? I'd love to know how to prevent it happening again as I think this syrup is just the business! Caro x
    PS. Wonderful photos and a great foolproof recipe for anyone new to making this!

    • How did you sterilise your bottles and lids Caro? Did you boil the syrup again after you strained it though the muslin? This hasn't happened to me before but there seems to be some step that is introducing yeast/bacteria into your syrup.

      If the syrup is not pleasant then probably throw it out and start afresh!

    • Jars were washed and then dried in the oven for 20 mins at 150C, lids were boiled for 15 mins on the stove, muslin was freshly washed and pressed with a very hot iron and the berries were boiled again after being strained. The only thing I'm unsure of is the funnel used to decant the syrup from pan to bottle. It was washed thoroughly but a bit tricky to clean the spout! Perhaps that's the cause …
      Thanks for your advice anyway, Tanya. I'll certainly be on the lookout for some elderberries to start again. It's such a simple and quick process (compared to making rosehip syrup), that it won't be a bother if I can find the berries!

    • Sounds all fine so you could be right about the funnel! Good luck with hunting down more berries 🙂

  4. Fran says:

    This sounds lovely. But, like Caro, I have picked elderberries in the past and they have smelled like cat's wee! Any ideas what we are doing wrong? Xxx

    • You've done nothing wrong Fran! Some varieties of Elder (of which there are many) will have an unpleasant scent/taste. Just avoid picking berries from that tree again and try to find another tree(s) that smell more like something you'd like to eat 🙂

    • Hi Fran, mine tasted okay (actually, delicious!) but started to ferment in the bottle so had a yeasty undertone and I binned it. I'm wondering now how to recognise the "good" berries – I hadn't realised there were so many varieties! Let me know if you find out! Caro x

  5. Elisabeth says:

    A beautiful and informative post! I really like that you are telling the story behind as well! I might have to go and see if there are some berries left to pick – I've been looking at them while walking the dog but never got around to taking them home with me.

  6. Tanya Walton says:

    Sounds wonderful…OI love to make syrups as they are so versatile!!

  7. just this minute finished making the elderberry syrup…. thanks Tanya for the recipe. Might make some vanilla ice cream for the first time to go with it.

  8. Do you know if you can use dried elderberries for this recipe? Would you adjust any of the other ingredients?

  9. Linda says:

    Great article. I love this syrup an take it every time I’m starting to feel not so great. I’ll also make elderberry tea with it. I haven’t processed it like you do, but will start in the future. Thank you.

    I just want to let you know, here in the states, we have pokeberries which can be confused with elderberries. They both have the red stem the berries grow on, but the pokeberries main stems are hollow, whereas the elderberries’ are woody. Also pokeberries grow more like a cluster and elderberries like a fan.

  10. Heather says:

    Hello Tanya,

    I just bought some dried Elderberries and would love to make your syrup. Do you think the recipe should be tweaked at all? Thanks in advance!

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