As I was talking to a friend of mine at the fairgrounds, I found out an exciting discovery. We somehow got on the subject of elderberries and I told him that I buy elderberry syrup for boosting the immune system. He and his wife looked at me like I was crazy. They asked me why I buy it when I can find it growing wild all over the place around here.
Oh my. I was quite giddy with excitement! I used to buy the little 4-8 ounce bottle of syrup at the vitamin store for at least $10.00. Whenever we needed it, we would take about two teaspoons full and either swallow it straight or put it in our water to sip on. By the time we all received one dose, the bottle was half empty! But, it worked so well that it was worth paying for.
My friend took us on a drive to show us what this amazing plant looks like (he only had to drive my dad and I thirty seconds down the road to find some). I realized that I had seen this plant numerous times. As a matter of fact, it was almost directly across the road from our house. I found numerous plants along the road near the grass and weed filled ditches. The heavenly plant is everywhere! Where have I been?
What is the big deal about elderberry, you might ask? It is the best immune booster I have yet to come across. When I use elderberry, I can't recall ever getting sick. Okay, maybe once, just so you don't think it is some miracle berry! It is high in vitamins A and C and will help treat a common cold by reducing mucous secretions. It has also been shown to prevent swine and avian flu strands. And, to top it off, it also helps relieve allergy symptoms!
Before we started to pick the berries, I had to decide how to make the syrup. I didn't want to make a tincture, as I didn't want any alcohol in it and I wanted it to last longer. I had planned on making quite a lot of syrup, so canning the syrup was my best option.
If you are making this to relieve allergies, I would advice not to can it but make smaller batches and refrigerate it. That way you will be getting the most out of the local honey to help your allergies.
If you don't have wild elderberries around you, you can buy dried elderberries as well.
Word of caution:
Do not eat the berries raw or drink raw elderberry juice!
Now that I have scared you a little, let me continue!
Ingredients list includes:
Elderberries - pick when dark purple to black
Local honey - does not have to be raw as it will eventually be boiled
Lemon Juice - needed to raise the acidity
Cinnamon sticks - optional
Pint Jars - for a gallon of juice, nine pints are needed
Here is what an elderberry plant looks like when the berries are still green.
Below is what you want them to look like.
Cut the stem and all. Don't worry about picking the individual berries. After picking, put them in the freezer for a day or two. Removing the berries from the stem will be much easier.
I found that rubbing my fingers on the berries from the base of the stem on down is the easiest way to remove the berries. It might be a good idea to do this outside or at a place where you don't mind getting purple berry juice on the floor. No matter how careful you are, you will get some on the floor!
Once you are done removing the berries, rinse them well. Don't worry if you have a few little stem pieces in there. They will be strained out later.
Put your berries in a stainless steel pot and barely cover them with water. Bring this to a boil then simmer for 25 minutes.
Once you are done simmering the berries, strain the juice in a jelly cloth or other similar cloth. Make sure you squish the berries and get as much juice as you can. I make a gallon of juice, so the recipe will be for that amount. You can halve it if you like.
Once you have all of your juice strained, put it back into a stainless steel pot and add two pounds of honey. For a half gallon of juice, use one pound of honey. Add 3 1/2 cups of pure lemon juice to raise the acidity and 2 cinnamon sticks(optional). Once again, halve that if you have a half gallon of juice. Bring the syrup back to a boil for a couple of minutes. Now you are ready to can it!
For those who are unfamiliar with canning, make sure your jars are clean and sterile before you put the syrup in them. Also, have your lids in a pan of water on the stove on low heat. I put my clean jars in the oven at 200 degrees while I am making my syrup.
After filling each pint with 1/4 inch head space, put them in your pressure canner. They should be covered with water as seen below. No pressure is needed, just the water bath method for 25 minutes.
The end results are extraordinary! The kids love it. As a matter of fact, I have to make sure they don't slurp it down like juice!
We picked more berries this week and are planning on making elderberry jam next! What a wonderful discovery!
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