Food & Drink

A Winter’s Tonic ~ Elderberry Syrup Recipe

August 16, 2013


I thought that 2013 was the year for berries but 2014 seems to have surpassed it. As a gardener and/or forager I feel it would be remiss not to rave talk about them lots given their abundance.

We often make the deliciously summery elderflower cordial and a couple of years ago made elderberry syrup, not realising it’s health properties.

The berries above are growing on an elder tree at Callan Community Garden – the ones in our own garden have barely formed. It still surprises me how far behind we can be in the growing season, living on the top of our hill. Have you noticed elderberries in the trees yet?

Elder Tree Folklore

When researching this post I was surprised to learn that the Elder tree has a very spooky reputation.  Folklore says that if you approach the tree after dusk you’ll place yourself at the mercy of witches (we’re in trouble then as there’s a tree at the entrance to our chicken run and one of the family passes it twice every day!) The Elder Tree is known as the witch tree, devil’s tree or Judas tree (it seems that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one).

Folklore aside, I think it’s a very pretty tree and to me signifies that summer’s on it’s way or in the case of the berries, that autumn has well and truly arrived.


Elderberry Cordial RecipeThe following syrup is a handy one to have in the cupboard over the winter months as it’s traditionally used to prevent and treat colds and flu. It contains flavonoids that help to fight the flu virus as well as vitamin C that will boost the immune system. Studies have also shown that the berries are great for helping to fight sinus problems. Don’t stick them up your nose, make them into a tonic 😉

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

I turned to one of my favourite books for this syrup recipe – Food From Your Garden from The Reader’s Digest Association Ltd  (published 1977). 

6lb (3kg) ripe elderberries
Sugar (or honey)
1/2pt (300ml) water
6 cloves and a piece of root ginger or 2oz (50g) cinnamon and 1 level teaspoon allspice

Strip the elderberries from the stalks, wash them and discard any that are shrivelled.

Put the water and berries together in a large earthenware bowl and break up the fruits. (Do this by mashing the fruit in a bowl then heating over a pan of water until the juice runs, then mashing again.) 

Strain the pulp through muslin or a jelly bag (coffee filters work too) and to each pint (600ml) of juice add 3/4lb (375g) sugar.

Put the sweetened mixture into a pan and simmer for 10 minutes.  Whilst it’s simmering add either the cloves and ginger or the cinnamon and allspice.  Pour into sterilised warmed bottles and seal.

Foragers Note: Never strip a branch bare of all it’s fruit. Take berries from different branches and trees, saving some for the birds.

Happy harvesting…..


  • Reply Mary Gethings (@Eco__Evolution) September 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    A foraging I will go this weekend! I was admiring the abundance of elderberries while our walking last week and wondered what I could make from them other than elderberry champagne or gin. Guess what I will be busy doing this weekend?….. That is after I have finished with the abundance of blackberries on the ditches.

    • Reply greensideupveg September 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      There’s a port recipe in my wine/beer making book Mary but it needs all the equipment. I may show it to himself though 😉

  • Reply Dr Hows Science Wows (@sciencewows) September 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Brilliant, I didn’t know about this one but definitely going to try it! Have been eyeing up some rosehips on the walk to school thinking of making a winter tonic from them but the road is too busy. Now you have provided me a lovely alternative and I think my mother in law has a good crop of berries ripe for the picking!

    Thanks ;0)

    • Reply greensideupveg September 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      Good point there about not picking berries by the polluted roadsides Naomi. I remember drinking rosehip syrup as a child. I’ll definitely be making this again when my berries are ready 🙂

  • Reply Tina Rock September 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Thank You for the recipe I await the berry’s to ripen further we are in abundance here where I Live..

    • Reply greensideupveg September 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Such a fantastic year for all kinds of berries Tina. Hope you enjoy it 🙂

  • Reply Millymollymandy September 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

    lol I have just come back to this recipe to check quantities (dammit I only have 850g after 2 hours of blackening fingers and thumbs rubbing the things off the stalks yesterday) – and find that the book you were linking to I already have!! Well I can get the recipe there rather than scribbling it down. I guess a small amount is better than nothing. Thanks!

    • Reply greensideupveg September 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Oh dear for your fingers but delighted you have the book! It’s one of my firm favourites. May you have an illness free winter after all your efforts 🙂

  • Reply Angela October 1, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Am here in Thomastown, picked tons of lovely juicy elderberries – have an abandoned farm across road from where I live, and there are about 5 bushes growing well and wild – am just having a go at making the syrup…will let you know how I fare…..

    • Reply greensideupveg October 1, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Do, would love to hear about it and you’ve reminded me to make some here too!

  • Reply Elderflower Cordial RecipeGreenside Up June 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    […] In a good year elderflowers start to appear in May, however in 2010 it was early June and now in 2015 ours are only just coming into bud and it’s almost July. Wait until the blooms are full, creamy coloured and full of scent (they’re especially heady when picked in the evening).  As with any type of foraging, avoid collecting the flowers if they’re growing close to a busy road as they’re more likely to pick up pollution and don’t pick all the flowers. Take a few from different branches, leaving the rest to develop into berries that can be made into a winter tonic in the form of elderberry syrup. […]

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