Sunday, 23 September 2012

A forager's tonic

Having had a poor year trying to grow my own vegetables (oh wetness, oh slugs!) I was getting a mite obsessive about putting by some sort of harvest for the cold months ahead. Having stumbled across a fine recipe for elderberry syrup in my Earth Pathways diary, I was determined that I would have at least one store cupboard triumph this year.

I've had a hard time finding elderberries in my immediate area but managed a good haul from alongside the canal near Bingley when visiting friends. It was a drizzly day and little legs were weary but still the children immersed themselves in the work of gathering, running about excitedly shouting over each fruit-laden bush they discovered. There is satisfaction in both discovering shiny wild treasure and in the anticipation of brewing and bottling something of the season.

So, without further ado - here is Glennie Kindred's recipe for elderberry syrup...




  • Strip the berries from the stalks into a good sized pan - a fork made this less of a chore
  • Add cinnamon sticks, chopped lemons, a couple of star anise, slices of ginger and some allspice
  • Glennie advises being intuitive with amounts...I used about 1 and a half lemons and about an inch and a half of ginger
  • Stir it all up and leave overnight.
  • The next day heat it up until it gets juicy - I possibly left mine a little too long and I think it just started to reduce




  • Strain it all through some fabric - I used a bit of muslin in a sieve but I think almost anything clean would do. This bit looks messy because it is.
  • Measure the liquid and return to the pan to heat again gently
  • Add the same amount of honey to liquid - I used a fifty percent manuka blend  
  • Store in bottles or jars - I asked a herbalist friend about storage times and she suggested that keeping them in the fridge would help preserve the syrup a little longer




The resulting syrup is deep, dark and delicious. As it was so loved by the boys I checked on its toxicity with my friend who said that it was probably advisable to stay within two dessert spoonsful a day. Raw elderberries can be none too good if you eat more than a few so I was glad to be reassured that once cooked they are fine to consume in moderation.

I have been enjoying using the concentrated mixture as warm drink diluted with water. I think it would be good with yoghurt or ice cream and I'm looking forward to trying a splash in something bubbly like cava or prosecco. It's also good slurped straight from the spoon.

I'm told by those that know that elderberry can ease congestion of the body, heart and mind. It's a sultry brew to be sure and I'm trusting in a little hedgerow magic to keep those autumn coughs and sniffles at bay.


6 comments:

Alice ~ writer, traveller, dreamer said...

oooo delicious... we made syrup too :-) today is blackberry and apple jam - we have picked LOADS! Our syrup has been enjoyed by us all on pancakes... and in vodka for the adults ;-)

Selina Gough said...

How did you make yours Alice? We don't seem to be able to gather enough blackberries to preserve them - too much eating on the job! Elderberry vodka sounds lovely...

kurlykath said...

Thank you! I needed someone to remind me how magical english autumn can be! Beautiful pictures. Rosehip syrup is another classic for this time of year and is about the best thing for staving off cold and flu. A gatherin' we shall go...

Selina Gough said...

Let's go together! Need to find a good spot...

Alice ~ writer, traveller, dreamer said...

i made the syrup just by covering the elderberries in water, simmering for 20 then adding 1lb of sugar to every two pints of liquid and boiling until it starts to thicken. Last night I made another batch and chucked in a few blackberries too - d e l i c i o u s ... yeah, i know what you mean about eating on the job. My daughter has been walking around with a black face for the past couple of weeks!!!

Selina Gough said...

Sounds great with the blackberries. I think I'm going to need to make more, we're running out already and I haven't even had any with a bubbly drink yet!