Elderberry syrup seems to have become a popular companion for many of us that get plagued with seasonal germ warfare during the cold and gloomy wintertime. I bought the very first bottle of elderberry syrup a few years ago. We were all very much pleased with the taste and continued to buy the product though we never used it religiously. Mainly because we’d forget. But also because of the price tag. I knew I could probably make the syrup at home if I really wanted to. If only I had fresh elderberries on hand so I could avoid an online order of dried berries that we didn’t desperately need or want. If only I had the right recipe, if only I had the time. Excuses, excuses, excuses…
It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I noticed something on our late summer stroll around the neighborhood. It was the familiar row of bushes along our path on the way to the park, now hanging heavy with clusters of shiny deeply colored berries. I grew up in Europe. The women in my family still make a number of things from the elderberry plant. These small dark berries drooping down from deep-purple stems? They looked a little too familiar.
Wait a minute, was that a — — — ???
Yup! It was! And after I consulted Google for the umpteenth time and confirmed that those were in fact elderberries and not some kind of a poisonous twin look-alike, I just knew I HAD to make homemade elderberry syrup this time. No more excuses, right?
Not only were these berries FREE (who doesn’t like free stuff?), they turned out to be so ABUNDANT in our area (who knew?!) that even the flocks of birds seemed to have been willing to share. And, every once in a while I really enjoy being all frugal and making things and saving money.
Since then we’ve been making our own elderberry syrup every year except for last year when we traded the entire elderberry harvest season for mindless road tripping across the southwest. #poorplanningskills
The first year we made a great-tasting liquid, but the consistency was nowhere near the definition of syrup despite of using plenty of honey. And I used ground cinnamon – not the worst decision but not my favorite either. So I fiddled around a little and twisted the ingredients a bit this year, and we finally made a divine tasting, more syrupy elderberry concoction this time around. Whoop-de-doo! Yum.
This is the elderberry-syrup-here and elderberry-syrup-there and my-elderberry-syrup-is-better-than-yours kind of season which obviously means that one more delicious homemade elderberry syrup recipe is desperately needed in the endless virtual world, right? You’re welcome.
Feel free to try our simple amazing ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE!
This syrup is rich, delicious, healthy, and so far it is my favorite.
“Gee, I’d have to put odd ingredients together and probably use a timer and a spatula and perhaps turn the stove on and prance around pretending I have nothing else to do, and then I’d have to clean the ginormous purple mess from my pristine white countertops… Nah, I’m good. I’ll catch ya’ later.”
Whoa! Hold on!!!
Making elderberry syrup is ridiculously easy.
In fact, it’s so easy that my kids could make the syrup themselves if I let them use the stove unsupervised. The truth is, if you know how to make tea with honey, you’re qualified to make homemade elderberry syrup. By making your own, you also know what’s going in – especially when it comes to honey. Adding honey not only reduces the extreme tartness of elderberries but also increases the medicinal benefits of the syrup. You want to use the real deal – RAW honey. Believe it or not, the majority of store-bought honey isn’t really honey after all.
If you’re not familiar with RAW HONEY, it’s basically PURE HONEY that hasn’t been processed and retains the full spectrum of its nutritional value. RAW HONEY is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It contains pollen, vitamins, minerals, trace enzymes, amino acids, phytonutrients, and other beneficial health-boosting elements.
Now… Does it need to be LOCAL HONEY? If you have access to good local raw honey, great! If not, you’ll need raw honey, but it doesn’t have to be local. Raw honey is packed with health benefits whether it’s local or not.
By consuming RAW LOCAL HONEY on a regular basis though, you might be getting an additional health boost in terms of reducing seasonal allergies – kind of like a nature’s allergy shot – but ONLY if that honey contains THE RIGHT BLEND of local pollen that the person is allergic to. Also, the term local isn’t even as much about mileage as it is about roughly the same types of plants blooming at roughly the same time as those in your area.
If you want to bring the syrup cost to a minimum…
…Pick your own elderberries like we do?!?
“Good grief, Marketa, are you kidding me? Do you really want me to scamper through our local wilderness in search of tiny berries?” Well, no. Unless you insist? What I’m saying is – keep your eyes open during the elderberry season in your area. You’d be surprised how many people would consider buying dried elderberries before checking for wild elderberries in their area first. (Look at me…?) And they ripen at the perfect time, too, right around before the ewww season hits.
Now, if you DO harvest your own berries, make sure it’s really elderberries.
Know what you’re picking(!) so you don’t end up with Hercules’ club, pokeberry, red elderberries, or something else. When in doubt, consult with someone that knows what they’re talking about.
Also, RAW IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER: never consume raw elderberries! Raw, dried and unripe elderberries, elderberry seeds, leaves, twigs and stems contain a chemical related to cyanide and are TOXIC. Ingesting any of these in large enough quantities may lead to seizures, general weakness, rapid heart rate, headache, dizziness, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhea.
If you’ve gathered fresh elderberries, you only want to use the dark berries. Discard unripe (green and light-colored) berries and ALL parts of stems – no matter how small.
Are you ready to make your own delicious, immune-boosting elderberry syrup?
Fresh or dried elderberries, it doesn’t matter. You can use either or both when making elderberry syrup: 1 CUP FRESH elderberries = approx. ½ CUP DRIED elderberries.
(The measurements in this recipe are approximate, and using a little more or a bit less of anything isn’t going to ruin your syrup.)
ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE
- 1 CUP fresh elderberries (or 1/2 CUP dried elderberries)
- 2 CUPS water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- Freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
- ¾ CUP RAW honey
Makes about 2 CUPS of elderberry syrup. (I always double up.)
- Place the first 4 ingredients (elderberries + water + cinnamon + cloves) in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer on low for about 45-60 minutes. (If you forget and let it simmer for longer than that, here’s what happens: nothing at all.)
- Once it’s cooked enough (the liquid should be reduced to about a half), remove from heat and strain the mixture into another saucepan or a heat-resistant bowl using a mesh strainer, gently squeezing the berries with the back of a spoon to get as much juice out as possible.
- Discard the berries and spices, and let the liquid cool down.
- When the liquid has cooled down to about a lukewarm temperature, add honey and mix well. (You don’t want to add raw honey to anything hot if you want to preserve its medicinal properties.)
- Add lemon juice and stir.
- Pour syrup in lidded glass jars – refrigerate – consume.
See? So easy.
This elderberry syrup should keep fresh for at least 3 months if stored in the refrigerator. (I’m not sure how much longer it could go before spoiling, it’s always gone by then.)
How much elderberry syrup to take and how often?
So here’s the deal: I don’t have a PhD in Elderberry Science, OK? You shouldn’t be taking any elderberry advice from me.
However, you’re waiting…
Actually, the recommendations about elderberry syrup dosage vary. Not very helpful, right?
If you ask around, you’re likely going to get a number of different responses. Some take the syrup daily as a preventative measure, some recommend against and only take it when they’re sick or feeling like coming down with something. Some take a teaspoon, others swear by a tablespoonful. One, two, or even a whole shot glass. And, to make it even more confusing, some advise against taking elderberry syrup during illnesses that raise cytokine levels in order to help prevent a cytokine storm.
Honestly, all of that is just too complicated for me, and I usually find my own way of doing things anyway. I think I found the common ground. Not after I’ve calculated anything or because I’m afraid of the dark berry. Mostly because I’m a bit of a brainfart and tend to forget. We take it when we feel like it. Some days that means daily, but then we may go weeks without. When we don’t feel well, we try to make the effort to take it along with other supplements.
The kids get 1 teaspoon-ish and we get 2 and lick the side of the bottle. I know. Gross. If illness seems to want to strike, we take that dose multiple times a day, I’d say about 4-5 times. (If your child is under 12 months old, I wouldn’t give more than 1/2 teaspoon of the HONEYLESS elderberry syrup at a time.)