The mighty and humble elderberry
In a search for natural remedies for wintertime afflictions like chest and sinus congestion, sore throat, aches and pains, I found the mighty elderberry. Several of my favorite health bloggers provided their own elderberry syrup recipes. One glance at a bottle of elderberry syrup on the shelf at Whole Foods had me speeding away from that aisle and headed to Amazon where I could buy my own dried elderberries for a fraction of the price.
The recipes I found were simple enough so my daughter and I spent a Saturday morning making elderberry syrup. I like to think this helps her learn to be more self-sufficient. Instead of heading to the drug store for some over the counter concoction, she knows that heading to her own kitchen is an option. When my little family survived a cold season with only minor down time, I attributed the victory to daily tablespoon servings of elderberry syrup. I also became that annoying co-worker who sends every friend at work a link to elderberry syrup upon the slightest rumor of a cold going around.
This little berry packs a powerful punch. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, elderberries contain more flavanol content (flavonoids have antioxidant properties) than blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and blackberries. They are antiviral and decrease inflammation. Please do only eat the cooked berries though. The stems, leaves and uncooked berries contain a compound similar to cyanide.
Once I discovered the elderberry, I realized that Northern California and Nevada are home to wild elderberries. Score! How did I not realize this before? No more buying dehydrated elderberries on Amazon. I only had to take a weekend horseback ride (or hike) up nearby mountains to forage all the elderberries I needed in a year.
Elaine at Simply Recipes has great advice on how to forage elderberries. Her blog post on elderberry jelly, which we used this year to make use of a bountiful elderberry year in Surprise Valley, explains another important trick to working with elderberries: freeze them first. Before I found this, I spent literally three hours de-stemming elderberries over my kitchen sink on a hot August morning. After reading the comment about freezing elderberries on a cookie sheet from a saint-of-a-jelly-maker who posted on Elaine’s blog post, I stuck about three pounds of elderberries on cookie sheets and placed them in our large freezer in the garage. That evening my husband and daughter de-stemmed all of the elderberries on the cookie sheets in about 45 minutes.
How to juice elderberries
We were on a jelly making kick last summer. My daughter loves elderberry syrup and jelly. We decided that our Christmas gifts last year would all be homemade. Maezy calls elderberry jelly “Zing Zam Jam” because it is tart and sweet (or because she is just creative like that). So we made jar after jar of Zing Zam Jam from elderberries growing wild in Surprise Valley and along Fandango Pass.
All the ways we consume elderberries starts with juice. What is the fastest way to juice elderberries with everyday kitchen appliances (there are fancy juicers but I haven’t tried those yet LINK)? Enter the humble crock pot. NOTE: we use this lead-free crockpot.
- Take frozen berries de-stemmed lovingly by husband and daughter.
- Toss them into crockpot with a cup or so of water.
- Turn on low. Go to work. Enjoy the day.
- Strain juice in the evening using a nut milk bag or cheese cloth.
- Use the juice to create syrup, jelly, soda, add to kombucha , or however you best enjoy the amazing elderberry.
Here are our favorite, most trusted elderberry recipes: