This fall I foraged a good bunch of elderberries from a few big bushes near me. Since I have been pretty buys and knew I wouldn’t get to them right away I popped them in the freezer, which actually helps make them easier to get off the stems.
When I was ready to make syrup I pulled them out and began pulling them off the stems. Freezing caused many of them to just fall off, but honestly this is the most tedious part of processing elderberries, and can still take quite a while.
After getting them as destemmed as possible you can seperate the unripe berries and any additional stems by giving them a quick soak in cold water. This also helps get any dirt or spiders or whatever other weird things might be clinging to them. The stems, spiders and unripe berries float and can be easily removed with a sieve.
Next I boiled them down and mashed them up, getting as much juice as I could out of them.
Here comes the fun part! Strain them through a clean tea towel or linen cloth getting all that good juice out. If you don’t want to turn your hands semi-permanently purple, you can wear gloves, but I like to wear the purple on my hands like badges of proof of my herbal prowess.
Gloves can also be really helpful for handling the hot berries. You can wait until they cool down just a bit, but leaving them uncovered, warm and wet is just inviting bacteria into your syrup, so I don’t wait. Twist and squeeze the cloth to get all that good juice out.
Once you have your warm juice add equal parts local raw honey, and you’ve made syrup! Bottle it up and give as gifts!
My favorite way to use elderberry syrup to boost my immune system is to add a tablespoon or two to a glass of sparkling water to make elderberry soda! Yum!
Basic recipe for elderberry syrup:
2 cups fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
3-4 cups filtered water
boil and strain
Add equal parts honey to the juice
Optional additions include:
spices like ginger, cinnamon, or star anise- add in with the berries and water during the boiling process.
Add a up to tablespoon of gelatin or agar agar in to the syrup to make it thicker.