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When I was a kid, our neighbor had an elderberry tree.
The branches stretched way over the fence and shaded a big spot in our backyard.
I was enchanted by the huge clumps of tiny, fairy like flowers at appeared in spring.
The neighbor lady taught my mom to make jelly from the dark blueish blackish clusters of berries that covered the tree in the fall. From the first bite, I was hooked!
Since that time I have used elderberries to make not only jelly, but syrup, pie, flavored vinegar, and even wine. The elder flowers make a great wine as well, but that’s a whole nother blog post.
I have used the syrup to flavor water kefir and shrubs, and to pour over my favorite Sourdough Waffles. And anywhere I’ve lived that I could find them growing wild, I’ve harvested and even dehydrated them.
With permission, of course. It’s never a good idea to go traipsing around someone’s property without their permission…especially in the South.
Dehydrating allows you to make stuff like this Spiced Elderberry Syrup in the dead of winter when nothing but kale is actually growing outside. Or at any other time of year.
One thing to keep in mind about elderberries is that they are mostly seed. And the seed of the elderberry contains an alkaloid called sambucine.
Sambucine causes nausea and vomiting. Which is so not cool. But heating the berries for at least 30 minutes neutralizes it and makes it not do bad things to you.
So, never, ever, eat raw elderberries! Uhmkay?
Not only are elderberries pretty tasty, but they have been used to thousands of years as a remedy for colds and flu.
Medicinal Properties of Elderberries
Studies have shown us that these little black beauties have anti-viral properties that inhibit viral replication.
Which is just a fancy pants way of saying they knock out cold and flu viruses.
In this recipe, I’ve added ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, as well as local raw honey. All of which have some medicinal properties as well.
You should take some of this at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms to keep them from getting a foothold. You can actually take some at any time to help boost your immune system.
Or, you can use it just because it tastes good! 🙂
The honey not only sweetens the pot, so to speak, but helps it last a pretty long time as well.
Not that it’s ever lasted long enough to go bad at my house…
And I always keep dried elderberries on hand so I can make a new batch when ever I need to.
And if you’re not lucky enough to have an elderberry tree, or a neighbor that has one, you can order dehydrated berries online. I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.
In fact, I get most of my organic herbs and spices from them. And I’ve never had any complaints about any of the products I’ve ordered.
Ok. Onward to the task at hand.
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Here’s what you will need to make
Spiced Elderberry Syrup
- 1 cup dehydrated elderberries
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 2″ fresh ginger, sliced or shredded
- OR 4 Tbsp dried ginger
- 1 cup raw local honey
- 3 cups filtered water
To start with, you need to soak the berries in the water for 30 to 60 minutes. This allows them time to rehydrate fully.
While they are soaking, I peel and slice the ginger.
Here’s a cool tip: You can use the side of a spoon to scrape the peel off of the ginger root. Nothing sharp required. 🙂
Then you can either grate it up or just slice it into rounds. Grating gives it a stronger flavor.
After your elderberries have finished rehydrating, toss in your ginger, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. And give it a stir.
Now you need to bring it to a full, rolling boil over medium heat. Stirring frequently.
Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down so that the mixture simmers gently.
You need to let it simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. Remember the sambucine?
I often let it simmer for a full 45 minutes.
Make sure you stir frequently so it doesn’t scorch.
And don’t put a lid on the pot while it’s simmering. We want some of the water to evaporate off.
After it’s simmered for at least 30 minutes, take it off the heat. And now let it cool for a few minutes.
Straining off the Juice
Now it’s time to strain the liquid off. You can use a fine mesh strainer or a muslin jelly bag for this step.
If you use a sieve, press the contents with the back of a spoon to get all the liquid out.
If you are using a jelly bag, make sure you give it a good squeeze.
I usually strain it into a glass measuring cup so I can see how much liquid I have. Ideally, you want 2 cups.
If you don’t have quite 2 cups it’s not a big deal. If you have a lot less, add some water to make up the difference.
On the other hand, if you have way too much, you need to put it back on the simmer some more to reduce the volume.
When you have 2 cups(ish), go ahead and add the honey.
The juice needs to be warm enough that the honey will dissolve, but not hot enough that it will destroy any of the honey’s goodness.
Now stir it up good so that all the honey dissolves and then let it cool to room temperature.
To store, put it in a glass jar of some type with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.
Using Elderberry Syrup
PLEASE NOTE: Because this has raw honey in it, do not give this to babies!
To use the syrup as a remedy, you should take a tablespoon every 3 to 4 hours as soon as you notice signs of a cold or flu. You can continue to use the syrup in this way for 2 to 3 days.
And there you have it! It’s that simple to make a great tasting cold & flu deterrent for your herbal medicine chest!
Have you given elderberry syrup a try? What did you think?
- 1 cup dried elderberries
- 1 cup raw honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 Tbsp ginger, fresh or dried
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 3 cups filtered water
- Soak dried elderberries in the filtered water for 30 minutes to rehydrate.
- Add the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and ginger to the rehydrated elderberries. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Don't cover the pot.
- Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve or muslin. Squeeze or mash to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Let cool slightly. While still warm, add the honey and stir to dissolve.
- When completely cool, store in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid in the refrigerator.
For cold or flu, take 1 tablespoon every 3 to 4 hours.
Use over pancakes or waffles, use to flavor shrubs, or in the second ferment of water kefir or kombucha.