2013 Food Preservation Season: Elderberry Syrup

September 16, 2013 · 10 comments

elderberry syrup // Wayward Spark

What: elderberry syrup

Main ingredients and where I got them: Henry harvested blue elderberries (Sambucus caerulea) from the tree in front of the cabin. I used honey from our own bees.

How much: just shy of 7 cups

Recipe: I read through David Lebovitz‘s recipe and the recipe on the Mountain Rose Herbs website and then did the following…

~3 pounds fresh blue elderberries picked off the stems
6 cups water
2 1/4 cups honey
juice of 1/2 lemon

In a large saucepan, bring the elderberries and water to a boil.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes until berries have softened and/or exploded. Run everything through a food mill or press it through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the skins and seeds. Pour the liquid back into the pot. (If you food mill it, you might want to pass it through a fine strainer again at this point.) Simmer for another 15-30 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in the honey and lemon juice. (Let the liquid cool for a while before stirring in the honey if you’re very concerned about maintaining a “raw” honey classification.)

Store elderberry syrup in the fridge for several months or freeze for longer storage.

harvesting elderberries // Wayward Spark

Other Comments: 

It is very very important that you use an appropriate species of elderberries for this syrup. DO NOT COOK WITH OR EAT RED ELDERBERRIES. They are highly toxic. Edible elderberries should be cooked before consumption. If you buy dried elderberries to make syrup, they will probably be the European black elderberries (Sambucus nigra). When in doubt about species identification, consult with someone who really knows what he or she is talking about.

I’m not much of an herbalist, but I have a couple friends who absolutely swear by elderberry syrup for abating/curing winter colds and such. We have a pretty robust blue elderberry tree right in front of our house, and it was heavy with ripe fruit, so I decided to try my hand at making some syrup. For the record, we will all be getting flu shots in the near future as well, but hopefully the elderberry syrup will fend off some of the kindergarten germ-factory illnesses we are already experiencing.

Blue elderberry trees, often more like multi-trunked shrubs, are common in Western Oregon, growing primarily in recently disturbed soil like clear cuts, road cuts, and stream banks. The blue berries ripen up around this time of year and are usually covered in a whitish bloom.

Picking elderberries off the stems is a pain in the butt and takes a long time. Henry told me that his friends at Seven Oaks Native Nursery throw the whole clusters in the freezer and supposedly the berries come loose much easier when frozen. My freezer was stuffed full at the time of this operation, so I didn’t try that method, but I definitely will next time.

I used a little less sweetener than I saw in other recipes from around the web. I found it plenty sweet, though I’m not sure if it will last as long in the fridge as some claim (up to a year) before going “off”. I looked around for canning directions, but everyone seemed so obsessed with storing their syrup in the fridge that I didn’t find specific instructions. Instead of chancing it, I opted to keep one jar in the fridge and throw the rest in the freezer. If you plan on freezing jars, be sure to leave extra headspace to prevent blowouts.

You can make elderberry syrup with dried berries. You’ll want to use about half the quantity as in the recipe above. I have another pound or so of berries that I plan on drying for future use.

Jess has a recipe for alcohol-based elderberry tincture if you want to go that route.

wild elderberries // Wayward Spark

This is part of a collection of posts documenting my food preservation activities this summer/fall (more info here). Please feel free to comment with a link to food preservation activities on your own blogs or links to recipes you’re following or you’d like to try from other blogs.

elderberries // Wayward Spark

And just for fun, here are two photos that Levi shot with my camera…

keeping the streets safe // Wayward Spark

Charlotte refuses to pose for any sort of photo if I have the camera in my hands, but she loves it when Levi’s shooting.

mums // Wayward Spark

I bought a couple pots of mums the other day because every front porch needs mums in the fall.

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