Use elderberries to make a sweet syrup for cocktails and more!
During my family's recent visit, we took them up to see the ranch. The heart of the ranch is 12 miles from our house, so whenever we have new visitors, we always make it a point to show them around the entire property - which spans the full 12 miles, and then some.
Greg mentioned that there were a few Elderberry bushes ready for picking on the way up to the ranch. Let me repeat - ripe Elderberries. For me to pick. It was like Christmas morning. In case you don't know, my true love, my goat, is named Elderberry. He may be a goat, but he is my child nonetheless.
The thought of enjoying elderberries with Elderberry was more than I could handle.
I imagined photos of me picking the elderberries in a dress and Hunter boots, like a scene from The Sound of Music. As we drove up to the ranch, we searched for the elderberry bushes, but could not find any. I sat in the backseat of the truck with my elderberry basket and camera in hand. Slightly disappointed, but still hopeful that we would find a bush. We drove all over the ranch, through meadows, over bumps and rocks, and still: no elderberry bushes.
Greg said, "Sorry Babs." I pretended not to be sad.
It was okay, I would survive (somehow) without getting my elderberry picking photo shoot. As we drove home, Greg drove slowly, still hopeful that we would find a bush. We were nearly home when he slammed on the brakes and said, "there's a bush!", (said in all seriousness). I had never seen an elderberry bush before, so I had no idea what to expect. Would the berries have the same coloring as my sweet goat Elderberry? Would they taste just as sweet? Of course they would!
The leaves were very similar to peach trees, and the berries resemble juniper berries. Just in case you go on an elderberry hunt, now you know what to look for.
We unloaded out of the truck, Grandma included, and traipsed across the road. When we arrived at the base of the hill where the elderberries awaited us, I realized, my photo shoot vision was taking a turn for the worst. The bush was growing about 15 feet up the hill. 15 feet of pure thistles. 3 feet deep thistles. My hunter boots were about 18" tall, leaving my bare thighs exposed to the mercy of the thistles. For reference: thistles have very little mercy.
Still determined to show Elders his heritage, I began my trek up the hill. I made it about 7 feet before I realized this wasn't going to work. Accepting defeat is no easy task for me.
I pouted while my cousin picked the berries for me. The berries which had mostly been eaten by birds. Greg retrieved me from the thistle patch, and piggybacked me down the hill. As my cousin handed me my elderberry basket, I assessed the harvest. A whole 3 branches. Enough to feed a small army of mini goats. Not enough for elderberry pie.
Still, I was thankful for my cousin's dedication to the elderberries, and the harvest of 3/4 cups of berries. So what's a farmgirl to do with 3/4 cups of elderberries? Elderberry syrup, of course... which will be used in cocktails to ease the sting of the nonexistent photo shoot and thistle burns.
Simple Elderberry Syrup
- About 1 cup elderberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
Bring ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to crush the berries throughout the simmering process.
Once ready, strain the syrup through cheesecloth into a mason jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to three weeks.