Autumn Time – Elderberry Time
As I walked through both cityscape and parks, I saw many, many elderberry bushes full of fruit. I started to take a basket on my wanderings and picked many, always ensuring to leave plenty behind for the birds.
Elderberries, when cooked, should count as one of the superfoods. They are choc full with vitamin C, contain plenty of Vitamin A as well as iron and potassium, vitamin B, and betacarotene. But it doesn’t stop there.
The fruit that is inedible in its raw form because it is said to release a chemical with cyanide-like properties has been known throughout history for its flu-combating properties, its power as an antiseptic wash for wounds, as well as its healing effects on conjunctivitis, sore muscles, sunburns, and damaged cells.
More recently, it has been found to reduce the symptoms of hayfever, regulate the human body’s insulin production, and skin toning properties.
Furthermore, it is said to make an effective fibre dye, ranging from light blue through purple to pink, depending on the mordant used with it.
Historically, elderberry wood has found use in flutes amongst Native American tribes, where it is sometimes known as the tree of music.
I collected three baskets full, which resulted in a bottle of syrup, a smaller bottle of medicinal syrup, a small bottle of liquor, three jars of jelly, three jars of elderberry-apple jelly, and some scraps of silk fabric now dyed in a vintage-type pink.
For all edibles/drinkables, the first task is to strip the fruit off the branches, as the branches may add bitterness. This is easiest done with a fork. The occasional green bits are fine; just don’t leave too many. In a large pot, bring it to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Water is generally not needed because the berries contain around 80% of water, but I do find the juice of a lemon or three brings out that typical, tart elderberry flavour.
Let the boiled berries cool down and then pour into a muslin cloth, tie at the top and squeeze the juice into a pot. If you want to experiment with using the berries as a dye, keep the squeezed-out berries in the cloth and immerse in some water.
Now that you have pure elderberry juice, you have an entire arsenal of possibilities how to use it.
Medicinal Elderberry Syrup
500 ml elderberry juice
3 sticks of cinnamon
2.5 cm piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated
100-150g honey, according to taste
Bring all but the honey to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour through a sieve, stir in honey, fill into jar. Whenever you feel the onset of a cold, take a spoonful every couple of hours.
2 l elderberry juice
Juice of 1-6 lemons, according to taste
1 kg unrefined, light brown sugar
Mix all and bring to a rolling boil. Continue to boil for 10-12 minutes. Fill into bottles. This can be mixed with water or sparkling water, like any syrup. It is also tasty heated and poured over ice cream.
800 ml elderberry juice
Juice of 1-3 lemons, according to taste
0.5 kg jam sugar
Mix all and bring to a rolling boil, then boil for 8-10 minutes. After eight minutes, do a jelly test. Continue to boil for another 2 minutes until the jelly sets. Pour into jam jars.
The elderberry juice can be mixed with other fruit if you like variety. For the elderberry-apple jelly, I used 500 ml elderberry juice and the sauce from six boiled apples (cut apples, add a little bit of water, bring to the boil and simmer until the apple pieces fall apart. Then pour through a fine sieve or cheese cloth.)