As the days become fresher & the sun sits a little lower in the sky, it’s the perfect time of year to get outdoors! Long walks here in the country are never more enjoyable than in the early Autumn light, as the colour & life is just beginning to fade from the trees, it can be such a picturesque time of year. It’s also prime time for a bit of foraging. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the summer months are the only ones that offer delicious finds, everything from plums & sloes to hazelnuts & elderberries only come out to play in the autumn.
Elderberries are a common sight along country lanes, verges & woodlands as these small, purple-black berries ripen from late August to October. Keen foragers will already know where to look for their harvest having already picked the earlier elderflowers from the same elder trees back in the spring (mine are all mind mapped for my local area, yes, this is a thing).
Cooking with elderberries can be messy work (wear dark clothes folks!) but is definitely worth it for more reason than one. Whilst uncooked berries are actually mildly poisonous as they actually contain a small amount of cyanide (causing lovely things such as nausea & vomiting), when cooked they have very different properties that can actually boost the immune system & help fight colds & flu! In fact, elderberries have been picked for centuries by opportunistic country folk as part of their winter preparations.
Here in my simple elderberry syrup, I’ve given it a little helping hand from a touch of ginger & cinnamon, also known for their anti-viral properties, as well as their comforting, winter flavours! Under the current circumstances, how could I not make up a bottle or two of this sweet, deep purple syrup. Although my winter stash will more than likely end up drizzled over my porridge or dashed in a gin! The easiest way to remove the berries from the stalks is to strip them using the prongs of a fork. If you can’t use the berries straight away, they can be frozen and used later.
- 150g elderberries
- 300ml water
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 200-400g granulated sugar
- Add the elderberries & water into a large saucepan & bring everything to a boil
- Boil away for 10 minutes, after which the berries should’ve burst & released all of their juices
- Strain the liquid into a jug for remove the berries
- Measure how much liquid you have & place back inside the saucepan
- Now, measure out an equal quantity of sugar to match the quantity of liquid (e.g. for 300ml of liquid, add in 300g of sugar)
- Add the grated ginger & cinnamon to the pan
- Gently heat the pan to dissolve all of the sugar
- Once dissolved, bring the mixture up to a boil & continue to bubble for only around 3-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened & turned syrupy
- Use a funnel to fill clean, sterilised bottles & seal well