Use elderberries to make a sweet syrup for cocktails and more! (Updated August 2017)
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.
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.
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!" 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.
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, 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. But enough to make a small batch of elderberry syrup!
Since this post was published, I have become an expert at finding elderberry bushes. I know exactly what to look for, and where to go to find them! This season, I will have more than enough elderberries to make jams, pies, and syrups.
My previous recipe for the syrup was quite sweet, and since posting it, I have discovered all of the wonderful medicinal purposes for elderberry syrup. With that said, I have decreased the sugar quite a bit. I have found that I don't miss the overly-sweet taste, and have enjoyed this lightened up version.
I like to add herbs during the simmering step of the recipe. Many people add cloves, and use honey rather than sugar. Use this recipe as a starting point, but feel free to get creative with it, you really can't go wrong!
Simple Elderberry Syrup
- About 7 cups elderberries - if you have less than 7 cups, decrease the rest of the ingredients.
- 1.5 cups sugar (If you like a sweet syrup, add more. If making for medicinal purposes, use honey instead.)
- 1 cup water
- Herbs of choice (optional)
In a large pot, combine berries and water. Turn on low heat and simmer for 5 minutes, just enough for the berries to release their juices.
Use a potato masher or the back of a spoon to crush the berries and release the juice.
Once the berries have been thoroughly crushed, strain them through cheese cloth or a fine mesh sieve, saving the juice. You may press gently to speed up this process, but you may find a few seeds in your syrup. Discard the crushed berries.
In a new pot, combine the juice with sugar and herbs. Try cardamom, or turmeric for medicinal purposes, cloves are also great. Turn on low heat and just barely simmer for 5-10 minutes. You may add more water to dilute the syrup if you desire. (I add about 1 cup of water more, but this isn't necessary.)
Once the sugar is dissolved, discard the herbs. Transfer the syrup to small mason jars. Refrigerate for up to three weeks. Can also be frozen to last throughout the season!