I looove playing with herbs, infusions, oils, and tinctures, combos for home cleaning and air freshening, oven cleaning, natural bug repellents, natural beauty products for everything from bathing to blush to balms—witchy good stuff. Nature provides so much of what we need to be balanced, happy, and healthy…
This summer, a pal of mine who’s a firefighter/bonafide nature whisperer gave me a baby elderberry bush. It was so cool to hear him talk enthusiastically about this miracle plant, and it was well, fun, to research some of the folklore about it (just Google “elderberry folklore” and dive into the rabbit hole). I had so many ideas for what I would do with those berries someday…
Then last week, I went to a workshop at the herbal Tonic Shop in my sweet little town, and they showed us how to make an elderberry syrup—it got my wheels turning.
Elderberry syrup is known to be a powerful immunity booster that can be taking to prevent colds and flu, and to alleviate symptoms if you end up in sick town (check out this study). The University of Maryland Medical Center even says that evidence suggests that “chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.” Worth a try, yeah?
Elderberry syrup is a simple reduction that is ultimately mixed with soothing, probiotic-rich honey. It’s slightly sour, sweet, syrupy, and delicious. To me, all that sweetness is begging for some HEAT and we can create this win-win by adding immune boosting, warming spices.
These past few weeks, I’ve been feeling my body respond to the seasons changing. Ayurveda calls this vata season—windy, dry, cold, light… It feels like the last hurrah of preparation before it’s time to slow down and hibernate for the winter. Just look at this pic my sweetie took from a nearby hike (so freakin’ lucky) from a few days ago… the trees are ready to burst!
My mind has been swirling—I’ve even had a few nights where I can’t fall asleep from all the colorful ideas blowing around like leaves. I’ve been keeping a pad of paper and a pen by the bed to record them (not to mention some of the wacky dreams I’ve been having).
In the spirit of slowing down, preparing, and finding balance, I want to share my version of fire-y Easy Elderberry Syrup. Start a pot of it and let the aroma fill the house. Put some big socks on, curl up on the couch, and read a great book (I’m currently reading this one) while it reduces.
You’ll need a fine-mesh cheesecloth or sieve to strain the mixture, but a recycled curtain sheer, pantyhose, or threadbare t-shirt will work, too. It will stain though, so only use something you don’t mind naturally dyeing (hint, hint). I prefer a cloth to strain because you can really squeeze all the goodness out like you would when making non-dairy milk, but if you only have a sieve or strainer, you can use the back of a spoon to press the decoction out.
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup elderberries
- 3 tablespoons elderflowers (optional)
- 2–3 tablespoons fresh-grated ginger or 1½ teaspoons dried
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves (optional)
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 2 teaspoons dried lemon and/or orange peel (optional)
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 5–7 whole cardamom pods (optional)
- Raw, unpasteurized honey (you’ll need about ½ cup honey per cup of elderberry reduction)
- Add all ingredients to a large pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil.
- If you have a chopstick at home or a bamboo skewer, drop it into the mix vertically and mark the depth of the mix at this starting point. If you don’t have either, drop a butterknife into the mix and mark the depth with a rubberband—kitchen hacking at it’s best!
- Bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover (helps trap beneficial properties instead of them floating into the kitchen) until liquid is reduced by half—use your skewer or chopstick or banded butterknife to help you gauge this reduction. It should take around 1 hour.
- Strain mixture (through a cheesecloth or sieve) over a large, glass bowl to remove solid ingredients.
Squeeze out all the goodness.
- Allow liquid to cool to room temperature, then stir in honey (if liquid is too hot/warm, it can diminish probiotic/preservative power in the honey). If liquid is cold, it may be tough to dissolve raw honey into the mixture, so gently warm over low heat on the stove and stir, quickly removing from heat as soon as you can.
- Transfer elderberry syrup to a glass jar and store in the fridge.
- Pack up some in a glass jar and share with someone you love.
Thanks to the natural preservative power of ingredients like raw honey, this syrup will last the entire winter season if kept in the fridge.
I have a feeling my pantry is going to slowly fill to the brim with goodies from Tonic Shop… could be trouble.
Don’t want to make your own syrup, but you want those immunity-boosting bennies? This looks like a nice one you can order online.
Ok. I want to hear what you think of this recipe. Do you make your own syrup? Have you experienced the power of elderberries? Tell us with a comment below. And share pics of your own creations—I want to see! #yumuniverse