Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe with Ginger, Turmeric and Raw Honey
Elderberry Syrup is a well known natural remedy believed to boost the immune system and speed up recovery from coughs, colds and sore throats. As with a lot of these recipes rooted in folklore, there are many ways to make it. Here is my homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe.
From the Elder (Sambucus Nigra) tree, Elderberries appear in autumn after the summer elderflowers are finished. They are glossy and black when ripe, and hang in sprays.
The elder tree is steeped in folklore. Elders were believed to be inhabited by witches who had transformed themselves into a tree to avoid capture. So be sure to ask permission from elder before you take flowers or berries to avoid trouble!
Elderberries are one of the best hedgerow fruits for wine making. Sometimes referred to as the Englishman's grape, the berries have a dark purple juice. They are astringent so your elderberry wine will need a long time to mature but it will be well worth the wait for a rich, full-bodied wine.
Plus elderberries make a great syrup.
A gentle reminder: always forage responsibly. Only harvest what you plan to use, leave behind more than you take, avoid disturbing the root structure of anything you pick, ensure you adhere to the Code of Conduct for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Wild Plants and, most importantly, never, ever pick any wild plant unless you are 100% certain that you have correctly identified it. For the avoidance of doubt, this blog post is not intended to help you identify elderberries without using any other resource. You need a good guide (preferably a human one, especially if you're new to foraging) to do that.
If you are using fresh elderberries, wash them well and strip them from the stalks. If you have picked them and are not yet ready to make syrup, you'll find they don't like hanging around in the fridge or at room temperature and will spoil quickly. So pop them in the freezer until you're ready. Some people do this anyway to break down the elderberries a little more, as you usually get more juice from fruit when it has been frozen.
Just as I use a fork to remove elderflowers from their stems for elderflower wine and elderflower champagne, I also use a fork to remove berries from the stems. It is important to remove them, not only because the stems are bitter but also because elder leaves, bark and roots are poisonous.
If you're using dried elderberries, as I am here, simply pick through them to remove dried stems and leaves, then give them a quick rinse under the tap.
Elderberry Health Claims
In ancient times, it was believed that Elder was cure for everything. During the first UK COVID 19 lockdown of 2020, we suddenly realised we were constantly selling out of dried elderberries in our Almost Off Grid Shop. Then it occurred to us. Elderberry is renowned for boosting the immune system, as well as helping with the symptoms of cold and flu. It seems that a lot of people decided to make elderberry syrup, in the hope that it would help their immune systems during the pandemic.
No single remedy will strengthen your immune system overnight. Whilst the scientific evidence for the claims made about elderberry syrup is a bit patchy, many people swear by it in their winter self care rituals. I add some other ingredients in to my syrup, like fresh ginger and turmeric, plus raw honey from our bees. My recipe being of the 'throw everything at it' variety.
Incidentally, the peppercorns add a nice punch to the syrup but, more importantly, the piperine in black pepper encourages turmeric absorption in the body. And raw honey is added right at the end when the syrup has cooled to almost room temperature, to avoid applying heat to the raw honey's active ingredients.
So here is my recipe, and it's a handy one to have in your winter armoury. This elderberry syrup lasts for about 3 weeks in the fridge. If you don't think you'll use it all in that time, you could freeze half of it before you add the honey, then defrost that half when the first batch runs out before mixing with the honey. I take a spoonful a day to keep the colds away, a bit more if I can feel something coming on, and mixed with a little hot water and ginger wine if a hot toddy is needed.
I like to store it in glass bottles with a swing top.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
Makes around 250ml.
- 100g dried elderberries (when making with fresh elderberries, I use about 200g)
- 750ml water
- 1 large piece of fresh ginger (around 25g)
- 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- One quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3-4 tablespoons honey, ideally raw (more if you like your syrup sweet)
- Sort through the berries, removing any twigs and leaves.
- Put in a sieve and rinse under a running cold tap.
- Transfer the elderberries to a saucepan along with the water and all the spices (not the honey, we will not be adding that until the end for the reasons outlined above).
- Bring to the boil and let it simmer for 45 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by approximately half.
- Gentle squash the elderberries with a potato masher to extract as much juice as possible.
- Strain the contents of your pan into a measuring jug. Press the mixture in the sieve/muslin cloth to extract as much juice and spice as possible, then discard the berries (great for composting).
- When the liquid has almost reduced to room temperature, add the raw honey and mix to combine.
- Pour your elderberry syprup into a jar or bottle and store in the fridge.
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