Never seen an elderberry.
Never tasted an elderberry.
Never had much of a desire.
Recently, that dear fella of mine looked at me while I was happily staring at peach and apple trees laden with fruit, and said, ‘we have to pick elderberries and do something with them.’ The first thought through my head was what is this ‘we’ stuff Kemosabe? What the HECK is an elderberry and what are WE going to do with them!?
But, never let it be said that I am not a good sport nor up for a challenge. Off I went, pouring rain, boots, hoodie, bowls, grabbing huge bunches of elderberries being handed down to me from a man on a ladder. Oh, did I mention I was in my pjs? Quite the look, I can tell you! SOAKED to the skin! Elderberries are beautiful in color. Tiny, bead like fruit, some squishy. STAIN LIKE CRAZY!
Project number one was elderberry jam, and fortunately a project with which I was not involved. I looked at it, a bit, have not ventured a try, but I just may. Elderberries have a bit of a bitter taste to them. You might want to throw a handful in with a peach cobbler, but you wouldn’t necessarily bake something with them on their own.
So during a lull in the rain, we sat on the deck, sipping whisky, giggling, coaxing the little purple fruit off their branches and into a bowl, watching our fingers turn more and more purple – me praying the purple would go away and I wouldn’t be going through life looking like Lucy Riccardo in the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode where she goes to work in a vineyard in Italy and comes back purple from head to foot.
NOw, I already had 2 ginormous bags of sliced peaches, 2 peach pie fillings and one apple pie filling sitting in the freezer, along with rosemary and pesto. Even freezing elderberries, I wasn’t coming up with anything to do with them. Elderberry syrup seemed to be the best idea at this point.
Elderberry syrup is great for your immune system, great for fighting off colds and flu and for helping it move through you if it gets you anyway. And trust me, elderberry syrup has GOT to be better than the alternative some people think of as the solution … CHEWING WHOLE, RAW CLOVES OF GARLIC. I gotta tell ya, stinky and just plain yucky!
Use non-reactive cookware and utensils, and dress for mess!
- 2 pounds elderberries (see note below), woody stems removed and rinsed
- 4 C water
- 2½ C sugar
- one big squirt of freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Put the elderberries in a large, non-reactive pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender and soft.
Pass through a food mill, then discard the skins.
Pour the juice back into the pot, add sugar, and cook at a low boil over moderate heat for 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened. Add a spritz of lemon juice. Cool completely.
NOTE: This took much longer than 15 minutes and still is not really syrupy. Perhaps my flame was slightly less than moderate. I also did not use anywhere near that amount of sugar.
We poured into a jar through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to get out whatever little bits were left in there. Store in the refrigerator.
NOTE: The original directions I read, though I know not from where, said to pour the juice through a cheese cloth lined, fine mesh strainer when you’re bringing it to the second simmering. I don’t read directions very well.
The syrup should keep for up to one year. If it shows any signs of mold, scrape it away, and bring the syrup back to a full boil again.