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 Elder 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. 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.

RECIPE
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 😉

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!

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