In Praise Of Elderberries

Sambucus nigra

By Glennie Kindred -

ELDERBERRY MEDICINE - Harvest elderberries in September, when they are black and juicy. Strip them from the stalks by rolling them through your fingers. (SO much nicer than using a fork!) Elderberry tincture is essential for the winter medicine cabinet ~ it boosts the immune system and will throw of a cold or flu if taken when the first sign of a cold or sore throat begins to show. If a cold or flu is already established, it will help the body fight the infection by encouraging sweating. Elderberry syrup is wonderful for chesty coughs and sore throats.

Elder will throw of congestion, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, helping us let go of the old and create space for the new to grow. It is a powerful ally, and a great tree to get to know.

GROWING ELDER TREES - It is an easy tree to grow: Simply cut six inch twigs of Elder and push half of this into the soil, in pots or directly in the ground. This is best done between July and November. When they are 2 years old, plant them out in the Spring, in existing hedgerows, along the edges of your garden, the edges of existing woods or on any bits of wasteland you can find. We need more Elder trees so we can make good use of this wonderful tree for medicine, elderflower cordials and champagne, and all of the elderberry recipes listed below!

ELDERBERRY TINCTURE - an excellent immune-system booster and very effective in throwing off sore throats, congestion, coughs, colds and flu: Fill a dark glass jar with elderberries, stripped with your fingers from the mesh of stalks. Cover with vodka or brandy. Shake everyday for a month and then strain through muslin, squeezing the juice out of the berries and store in clean dark bottles and label.
Take half to one teaspoon, three times a day.

ELDERBERRY SYRUP - Highly prized and praised, and well worth making! It does the same job as the tincture but without the alcohol, so it is good for children. Strip elderberries into a large pan. Add a cinnamon stick, chopped lemons, a few star anise, cloves, all spice, some slices of ginger……. Be intuitive with these! Stir it up and let the mixture stand overnight. The next day warm gently on a really low heat, bringing it up to boiling, and letting the juices flow. Then when cool, strain through muslin or a clean cotton pillowcase, squeezing all the juices out. Measure the liquid. You will need the same amount of clear honey to liquid. Return to a clean pan. Heat gently and when hot but not boiling, stir in the honey and when it has completely dissolved, pour into warmed dark bottles and label.
Dose is the same as the tincture.
It is particularly good for coughs and sore throats and as a preventative.
It can also be used as a warming and healing cordial by adding hot water.
Once opened it needs to be kept in the fridge, otherwise unopened it will last for a year until you are ready to make your next batch!

ELDERBERRY ROB - An old country favourite for winter colds and flu. Taken with hot water and a nip of brandy!
5lbs elderberries, stripped from the stalks
1 lb sugar
Boil the elderberries to extract the juice, squeeze and strain through a sieve and muslin. Return to clean pan with the sugar and simmer until the liquid reduces to the thickness of runny honey, stirring frequently so that it doesn't catch. Bottle into clear dark bottles and label.

ELDERBERRY WINE - Long used by country folk, and taken hot before bed to bring out a cold or fever, Elderberry wine is a rich dark wine that never fails!
1 gallon elderberries
4 litres of water
half ounce chopped root ginger
quarter ounce of cloves
1 teaspoon yeast
2lbs 14oz sugar
Destalk the elderberries and put in a plastic bucket with 4 litres of boiling water. Leave for 3 days, stirring every day so that no mould develops.Strain into a jam pan, with the finely chopped ginger and cloves and bring slowly almost up to the boil. Add the sugar to dissolve and return to the clean bucket. Let it cool to luke warm and stir in the yeast. Pour into a demi john, fit the fermentation lock and leave until it stops fermenting - and then carefully siphon off into clean dark wine bottles and label

ELDERBERRY CHUTNEY - In a large pan combine: 2lbs of elderberries (removed from the stalks) + 1lb apples (peeled, cored and chopped), + a handful of sultanas + I large chopped onion + 1 pint of vinegar + 3 tablespoon of sugar. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, crushed peppercorns, chopped ginger, crushed mustard seeds and mixed spice. Bring to the boil and simmer until it thickens. Test the flavour and adjust to taste. Pour into warmed jars and screw on lids. Tighten the lids when cold and label.

ELDERBERRY AND APPLE JAM - make a pulp by boiling 2lbs of roughly chopped apples (use windfalls) in some water, and pass through a sieve to remove the cores, skins and seeds. Do the same with 2lbs of elderberries, removed from the stalks, with just a little water as they are so juicy. Combine the two liquids and measure. Add 1lb of sugar per pint of liquid. Bring back to the boil in a clean pan and boil for around 10 minutes until it shows signs of thickening. Pour into warmed jars and label.