A few weeks ago I was at the Farmer’s Market with my friend Lee, who happened to spy fresh elderberries for sale. She knew that I wanted to find some this year and quickly pointed them out to me. I was ecstatic and promptly bought them!
I wanted elderberries because I’ve wanted to make my own syrup for many years and decided that this winter I was going to do it, even if I had to buy dried ones. Actually, I’d given up hope of finding fresh berries and had tacked some on to an herb order my friend Crystal was placing. Now, I have plenty! 😉 I thought that I would share with you what I did with these fresh berries and the recipe I’m trying out for syrup.
First off, let’s talk a little about elderberry. As you can tell from the picture at the top of this entry, the berries grow in clusters much like grapes, but they are very small. I would say that they are maybe just a smidge bigger that tapioca pearls. When they are ripe they are a very dark color, almost like a purple-black. Anything else you don’t want to use. A tincture or syrup from the berries can be used to prevent winter colds and magickally they are used for exorcisms and for protection, prosperity and sleep.
Now on to what I did. The syrup recipe I found is good for only 2 to 3 months in the fridge. I wasn’t going to make everything into syrup all at once so I decided to attempt to dry most of the berries. I called my herbal witch friend, Crystal, for tips on how to dry them and she quickly offered up her dehydrator. She even offered to come help pluck the berries with Leeann and myself!
I started off the process by washing the berries thoroughly. I had to divide them into batches because I didn’t have a colander big enough to put them in all together. Then we started plucking. Once Crystal arrived and Cathy came over to help too, we were able to start layering the berries on the dehydrator. They were too small to put directly onto the trays because they would have fallen through, so we lined them with parchment paper.
We made sure to leave plenty of room on the trays so that air could circulate. If you’ve ever dehydrated anything before then you know that you should rotate the trays every couple of hours for an even drying process. Here’s what they look like as they are drying:
1 cup fresh or ½ cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup raw honey
1 cinnamon stick
Put all ingredients except for the honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Smash berries and strain mixture.
Allow to cool and add honey. Store in a glass container and refrigerate.
I also did a couple of tinctures in vodka that will be ready in 6 weeks. This way will preserve better, but I wanted to try the syrup variety as well. I’m not sure how much dry product I ended up with, but I’d say it has to be close to 3 cups. As we head into winter and the cold and flu season I will let you know how the tincture and the syrup work out.
So let me know if you’ve ever dried elderberries or used a homemade syrup or tincture. It was a lot of hard work, but definitely something I’d do again when this supply runs low. Hope you found this helpful or inspiring!