Elderberries are far from the most foraged berry. This is a bit of a shame, used the right way they are a great wild food ingredient. They make a good jam or jelly, but you wouldn’t really want a pudding with them “neat”. Adding another fruit like Blackberries improves the flavour. Where they do come into their own is in drinks, one of the best wild fruit wines, a great spirit-based infusion (think Sloe Gin but with Elderberries and Vodka or Whisky), or most commonly as Elderberry Syrup. This is one of my favourite fruit syrups and can be used in a number of ways.
Uses for Elderberry Syrup
Most will go in the freezer to reappear when the winter colds or flu strike. Defrosted then a little in a mug of hot water (squeeze of lemon juice or a drop of whisky are optional extras) will relieve the symptoms of colds and flu. I add cloves to mine and the fruity/spicy remedy soon starts to work wonders. The combination of certain acids, vitamin C and anti-oxidants has proven in trials that “Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier …. in those receiving elderberry extract compared with a placebo“. The medicinal benefits have been known since the Ancient Egyptians and Greek. You can today buy cold remedies with Elderberry in, but why, when you can make your own cheaply. I use the recipe in Roger Phillips’ excellent Wild Food.
I’ve known people use it as a no-alcohol version of mulled wine. The spices, such as cloves, ginger and / or cinnamon, make it fill the role very well.
You can drizzle a little of the syrup on to ice cream, pancakes, rice pudding or similar.
I use Roger Phillips’ recipe from his excellent Wild Food: A complete guide for foragers.
- Ripe elderberries
- Pick the fruit on a dry day. Wash well and drain thoroughly.
- Strip the fruit from the stems (with a fork) and put into a pan, adding just enough water to cover.
- Simmer for 30 minutes until the berries are very soft.
- Strain through a jelly bag or muslin and measure the juice. Allow 450g sugar and 10 cloves to each 600ml of juice.
- Heat the juice gently, stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Boil for 10 minutes and then leave until cold.
- The syrup may be frozen in small quantities (I use well-cleaned old milk bottles) or packed into small screw-topped, soft-drink bottles which have been sterilized.
Please note that Elderberries do need to be cooked before being consumed. Eating raw berries or juice may lead to nausea or more severe symptoms.