Elderberry Cordial and Syrup

Elderberries have been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years, and have been called the poor man’s medicine chest. The berries contain lots of vitamin C, in fact, more than any herbs except black currants and rosehips.  They also contain large amounts of vitamin A and B, flavonoids, amino acids, tannins and carotenoids.

Egyptians used the flower to heal burns and improve complexions.  The flowers are mildly astringent and when steeped in water are said to relieve psoriasis, acne and eczema, to be an excellent eye wash and to make a soothing gargle.

The leaves, stems and seeds are toxic, but the berries can be steeped in water, the juice pressed out and used as a remedy for sore throat, the flu, colds, asthma and bronchitis as well as beneficial in reducing urinary tract and bladder inflammation, inducing perspiration and reversing the effects of a chill.

So why aren’t we all making Elderberry Cordial and Syrup? you might wonder.  Most people don’t know how wonderful Elderberry Trees are, and planted things like Cottonwoods instead.  Sorry if you like Cottonwoods . . .

If you’re interested in making jelly, wine, cordial or syrup from elderberries you might just have to scrounge for the berries.  Make sure the elderberries are the type for consumption (someone told me that there are elderberries for show and elderberries for use, but I don’t know any more than that).  Also make sure you harvest with permission, and try to be cognizant of environmental conditions for your berries.  If you harvest near a heavily trafficked road, for example, you might not want to be ingesting the berries after all . . .

Here are my two recipes.  I was lucky enough to get the gift of some nice berries which my son helped me harvest.  Bringing a scissors to cut off the berry sprays is helpful.  Once you get them home, rinse and remove the berries with a fork.  Using the fork, comb through the strands, plucking the berries off and discarding the stems as you go. For Elderberry Jelly or more pictures, check out my Elderberry Jelly post here.

ELDERBERRY CORDIAL

— note: this is not an alcoholic cordial, just a concentrate with sugar that when added to plain or sparkling water makes a refreshing drink.  I add it in the proportion of 1 to 4 (1 part cordial to 4 parts water).

1. Destem 4 quarts of berries (you can recreate this recipe with more or less, so don’t panic).

Place in a pot and add enough water to almost come to the top of the berries.  Add the slices from 1 lemon if you wish. Heat gently, simmering for about 30 minutes.  The blackish/purple berries will turn a reddish/brownish/purplish color, and then they’ll be ready to strain.

2. Strain out all the liquid.  Elderberries tend to hold juice even after simmered, so I pour the leftover solids into a jelly bag and squeeze.  Yep.  Go ahead and squeeze it.  When all the juice has been released, measure the juice.

3. For every quart of juice, add 2 cups of sugar.  Add the juice of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 – 1 tsp citric acid for every quart as well.  Simmer all together until the sugar has dissolved and the juice is heated just to boiling, then pour into hot sterilized jars (half-pints work well) and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes at sea level, 15-20 minutes at 5000 feet.

4. If you wanted to add alcohol to this recipe you could add 1 pint of whiskey or brandy per quart of juice, and then forget about processing in a hot water bath as the alcohol will preserve the mixture. Instead cork, and store in a dark, cool location until ready to use.  Some like their cordial simmered with cloves — that’s another idea . . .

ELDERBERRY SYRUP

When I make this syrup, the intent is not to pour it over pancakes, although I guess you could.  This is really a syrup for my medicine chest.  Give this out a tablespoon at a time to soothe sore throats and bronchial ailments or the flu.  You can also pour a tablespoon or two into a cup of hot water for a tea. The honey and lemon are heavy duty cold fighters.  And now you know all about how awesome elderberries are . . .

1. Destem 4 quarts of berries.

2. Add 2 cups of water and bring berries to a simmer, simmer 30 minutes, and then strain all juice.

3. Add 2-3 cups of honey.

4. Add 1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

5. Heat all together until it just comes to a boil, then pour into hot sterilized jars and process as cordial above.

Some day I’ll make Elderberry Wine. At this point I’m still recovering from the Mead Experiment . . .

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3 comments to Elderberry Cordial and Syrup

  • Patricia Johnson

    Hi and Thank you for the recipe for Elderberry Cordial and Syrup. I remember picking and making jelly with my mom when I was young. I remember her telling me that I had to be careful and not pick gall berries as these are poisonous and look like Elderberries. The difference I believe was the leaves but I can’t remember exactly what she told me. Anyway thank you again for the recipe.

  • elizabeth

    You’re so welcome. Also you want to use the green ones, and very few of the red ones. Best when they are darkest to make sure they are ripe.

  • Kelly B

    Your cordial recipe is fantastic! I’m in the process of making your elderberry syrup right now. Thanks for the info!

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