Sniffles Away!

It’s that time of year when the nights start to draw in and thoughts turn to becoming prepared for the chillier days ahead. Colds and Flu symptoms are tedious so it’s good to be armed with a recipe that Mary Poppins would be proud of! There’s certainly more than a spoonful of sugar in this recipe but it’s required to preserve the fruit mixture. Some of the documented benefits are:
1. Immune system booster
2. Powerful Antioxidant
3. Helps to relieve coughs, colds, sore throats & Flu
A spoon can be taken once a day to prevent Winter sniffles or 3-4 times a day if symptoms suddenly appear. There are thousand of recipes on the internet (I recommend that you research this for yourself) but this is the recipe I use and it tastes delicious!

Firstly, you need to locate and properly identify the ElderΒ Sambucus nigra and collect only the fruit that is plump and really dark. We have an Elder bush that lives by the shed (that was helpfully planted by either a bird or squirrel) and luckily there are quite a few Elders down the Lane too.

The Elder is an amazing plant that not only produces pretty and useful flowers (although a little whiffy for my liking) but it also has the most amazing jewel-like berries on colourful red stems.Β It’s important not to strip the plant completely as many birds rely on these berries for food… and it’s also nice to leave some berries for fellow foragers! The great thing about this recipe is it’s adaptable depending on how many berries you have. If you don’t like the spices below then you can omit or replace as desired.

Ripe elderberries
Sugar (equal amount in weight compared to elderberries)
1 Lemon
2 Star Anise
20 Cloves
Thumb of fresh ginger
Lashings of good intentions πŸ˜‰

It’s important to only use the ripe, black berries. Those that are green or dark pink could make you ill… as do the the stems or bark so it’s important to prepare these little rascals properly! My preferred method, whilst sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, is to gently hand pick each berry off the stem. If the berries are really ripe then a fork can be used to ease them off the stalks but this can result in extra stems being added too!

It took about 45 minutes to obtain a decent bowl of elderberries and it’s slightly more interesting than podding broad beans (but not much). The berries need to be washed well – and if an earwig runs out try not to have a screaming fit and throw the berries everywhere.

1. Put the washed elderberries in a large pan
2. Cover with just enough water and put on the stove until boiling
3. Add the lemon and spices and stir well
4. Cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Sterilise the bottles in readiness
6. Mash the mixture to release the flavour, carefully remove the large pieces of lemon and ginger and carefully strain into another container (I used a cafetiere as my sieve wasn’t fine enough!)
7. Measure this liquid, return to a clean pan and add equal amounts of sugar*
8. Boil for approximately 10mins and ensure that the sugar has been dissolved.
9. Let the liquid cool a little then decant it into the sterilised bottles.

* some recipes recommend 3/4 amount of sugar to the full amount of elderberry juice. It’s important to remember that the sugar is there as a preservative so your juice may not stay fresh without sufficient amounts!

The containers I used were anything from old whiskey bottles to recycled glass herb pots (which are a great handbag size for taking to work!). They also make thoughtful gifts for friend or family who become ill… or those who can’t afford to be!

The spices give the syrup a lovely, mulled taste and it’s very like blackcurrant cordial. Some culinary uses are:

– Poured over pancakes or vanilla icecream
– In a favourite cocktail (eg with champagne as an alternative to Kir Royale)
– Hot Toddy
– Added to fruit crumble or fruit pie instead of sugar
– Added to sparkling water for a refreshing fruity drink

I maybe should have mentioned at the beginning of the post that these little beauties stain so protect work surfaces and wash your hands well. I still have a black stained thumb that looks like I was fingerprinted at the weekend!

43 thoughts on “Sniffles Away!

  1. Lovely! I will try this next year… all our elderberries this year seem to be on the highest branches, and I picked the ones I could reach for my liqueur! Love the photos!

  2. Sounds like a great way to fight colds! Unfortunately, our birds didn’t take your advice and leave some berries for others – they’ve completely stripped the bush.

    • Funny you should say that… I found many plants that had already had the berries stripped from the stems. The cheeky little devils start at the bottom too probably knowing that we can’t fly to the top!

  3. Sounds yummy! They stain when the birds eat them too… if you see what I mean!? I’m not sure how true this is but I was under the impression that it’s not a good idea to collect elder berries from the side of a busy road because they really absorb all the pollution. Probably just a good idea to keep in mind for any kind of foraging really.

    • LOL… those birds are naughty, I have a black car so it hardly shows πŸ™‚ You’re quite right, it’s not good to forage next to busy roads or from those plants lower than the height of your knee (dog urine) but discretion is needed as a road can be a very quiet country lane or a busy main road in a city. I always wash my hedgerow findings really well just in case!

    • Elderberries are quite common in our hedgerows here so it would be a shame not to use them. The syrup really tastes as good as it looks so I just hope it keeps the germs away!

      • In the past I have used the hips from wild roses, but these are few and far between so I’m going to try the hips from my Rosa rugosa. They are ripening nicely so I am optimistic. I’m also going to make rose hip and apple jelly if there are enough. Crab apples are best but I will have to make do with imported Bramleys.

  4. Last spring I had the flu and a terrible lingering cough, and I tried elderberry syrup for the first time. It really helped but it cost a fortune, so I’ve been wanting to try making my own. Now I just need to find myself some elderberries.

  5. Well, well, well, I’m sitting here looking at a bucket of homemade frothing elderberry wine. This recipe sounds fabulous – if the rain hasn’t washed them all away, I will definitely have a go.

    Top tip to readers of this beautiful blog: when you pick the elderflowers, pick the ones towards the bottom of the bush/tree. Then, when the elderberries come along, the ones you didn’t get, towards the top, are heavy enough to weigh down to a point where you can reach them. This leaves the ones at the very top for hungry birds and tree climbing fanatics xxxx

  6. We don’t have elderberries here, but boy that looks good. I laughed out loud at your earwig comment. That would be me. It’s not the bug so much as the startle factor. What lovely gifts you have for your friends.

    • Earwigs make me shudder… it didn’t help that when I was little I was told that they crawled into children’s ears at night to sleep. Eeek! The fact that it was a fellow 8yr old that told me this didn’t make it unbelievable πŸ™‚

      • It’s amazing the things we carry with us our whole lives, only to realize they aren’t true. We are so impressionable at that age. I was convinced that as long as I had the covers pulled up to my chin, nothing under the bed could hurt me.

  7. We don’t have elderberries, but that sounds wonderful! I wonder if other berries would work? I recently had a doctor tell me to buy locally grown honey and take a teaspoon a day to help with allergies-a lot cheaper than allergy medicine!

    • Rosehip syrup is supposed to be really good too if you can’t get hold of elderberries. I’m interested in these old, traditional remedies because there is increasing evidence that many of them work and have fewer side effects than pills.

      • I’m interested in old herbal remedies too – I use a tincture of Feverfew to get rid of headaches, seen as though paracetemol doesn’t seem to work anymore :S

  8. Hey PJ, your posts while informative, also make me laugh. Does Whiffy mean scented? Of course you had me at ‘Mary Poppins’. I think that’s fabulous it can go on pancakes and then into my champagne. Sounds like the breakfast of champions. I have not doubt your gifty presentation will be well received.

    • LOL! Whiffy means a little unpleasant smelling rather than just scented πŸ™‚ I’ve also had to ask meanings of words too from other bloggers and it’s quite funny!

  9. Lucky you, my elderberries have all been eaten by the birds this year and reading your post I crave my grandmother’s elderberry soup, also great when you have a cold. At least I made som elderflower jelly, vinegar, and syrup in the spring, which are totally different of course from the berries (not the same health benefits) but also quite unique.

    • Elderberry soup sounds wonderful. Those old fashioned recipes really are the best! I love elderflower syrup but I didn’t have chance to make any as the rain ruined the blossom before I could harvest any!

    • I love the fact that you have a British slang dictionary! Whiffy means an unpleasant smell and is used widely as a description over here! I generally write my posts as if speaking aloud so they probably sound nonsense anyway! LOL! Thanks for your comments about the new banner… just playing about with it at the moment so thanks for noticing x

  10. Hi PJ, loved the post, even though I don’t have any elderberries. I used to make lots of different preserves when I still lived in Norway as foraging is much more common there, but living in London and with failing health I need to grow what I eat in my own garden these days. Rosehip syrup and soup is lovely by the way, have made it many times in the past πŸ™‚

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