Making Elderberry syrup by Betty Fikes Pillsbury
“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”
If you are a Monty Python fan, you will recognize that quote. If you are not a Monty Python fan, look it up!
Folklore holds that sitting under an elder on Midsummer allows one to see the Fairy Queen on her progression through the wild places. While living in England, I learned that one never cuts any portion of the elder without asking permission of the plant first. Often you will read that growing elder on your property protects you from witchcraft. Then again, I’ve read that it protects the witch.
That’s some powerful stuff.
Elder – Sambucus Nigra
Perennial. Tall bush (8-12 feet high) Prefers some moisture, but well drained soil. Shade to full sun. The more moisture available, the more sun it can take. Best propagated from root divisions or rooted cuttings of spring shoots.
Elderberry syrup is excellent for upper respiratory tract congestion, coughs and pain from flu and colds. It appears to strengthen cell membranes to prevent viral penetration. Elderberry is diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, antirheumatic. It’s also darned tasty and can be used to top oatmeal, yogurt or ice cream. A tablespoon of elderberry syrup in a glass of seltzer is delicious.
When the elderberries are full and plump and are hanging in clusters from the bush, pick clusters.
Here’s a video on how to pick without using scissors.
Separate berries from the stems. I find it is much quicker if you freeze the berries first, stems and all. Put them in the freezer for at least an hour.
Stems are toxic and shouldn’t be used. If you have tiny pieces of stem or green berries, don’t worry about that yet.
Put berries in a large pot. Cover with water, plus 1” above berries. Notice how the green berries and little pieces of stem float on the water.
Use a ladle to skim the unwanted bits from the pot.
Bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Let cool. Strain elderberry juice. Measure juice. For every pint of juice, use one pound of sugar. Put juice and sugar in large pot. Bring to boil. Boil for 25 minutes or until temp reaches 225.
Skim off any pink foam that appears. I use a wooden spoon to do this.
Pour into scalded glass jars. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. The syrup can then be stored on the shelf. Refrigerate after opening.
Looking for more information and recipes about elder? Please go here to purchase a booklet that I wrote with a few other herbalists. Enjoy!!!